Saskatchewan pronoun policy debate continues

Saskatchewan Legislative Building, Regina, SK. (Photo by Mickey Conlon, The Catholic Register, CCN)

By Mickey Conlon, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – The Saskatchewan government has tabled its Parents’ Bill of Rights Act — complete with the notwithstanding clause — to prevent children under the age of 16 from changing their names or pronouns without parental consent.

The Saskatchewan Party had introduced legislation last month but a judge granted an injunction at the end of September pausing the pronoun policy. Premier Scott Moe decided to recall the legislature early and re-introduce the law and invoke the notwithstanding clause, which he did Oct. 12.

The notwithstanding clause allows governments under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to override some Charter rights for a period of five years after which it must be renewed. The clause is rarely used, especially outside of Quebec.

Saskatchewan joins New Brunswick in introducing such legislation as provinces battle back against gender ideology that has been creeping into Canadian education systems. Across the country, students were being allowed to change their names and pronouns without parental consent, and keeping this information from parents. Increasingly, parents are fighting back, and was the driving force behind the 1 Million March 4 Children that took place last month nationwide. A second march was to take place Oct. 21.

Tom Fortosky has taken a look at the legislation and sees little wrong with it; in fact, the executive director of the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards’ Association sees it mainly as more of the same for Catholic school divisions in the Prairie province.

“When it comes to parental involvement in the education of their kids, that’s always been our default position,” said Fortosky. “We involve the parents in every aspect of their lives, that’s the way we are.”

It’s not just Catholic schools either, he said.

“I mean public divisions, when you get right down to it, a lot of them were doing the same things that we were doing,” he said.

The safety of kids is the number one priority — “What do you do with that child that really isn’t safe going home? How do you protect that child?” — and Fortosky sees it being taken care of in the legislation.

The legislation is a work in progress, and Fortosky said “we will certainly work with the government on this.”

The bill was expected to pass after 40 hours of debate in the Legislature (the final vote was expected to take place Oct. 20, after the Catholic Register deadline). The Opposition NDP tried to stall debate with some procedural wrangling, but deputy leader Nicole Saraurer said she was resigned to the fact that with the Saskatchewan Party holding a majority in the Legislature, the law would pass.

“I know we can’t stop these rules from passing eventually,” Sarauer told the Legislature Oct. 12. “I understand that. But we felt it was important to stand up for democracy, to stand up for the public’s right to participate in their democracy.”