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'My own son is trans': Sask. Human Rights commissioner resigns over pronoun policy


A Saskatchewan human rights commissioner resigned on Monday over a controversial government bill that she describes as “an attack on the rights” of vulnerable children.

In a letter addressed to Premier Scott Moe, Saskatoon commissioner and former Paralympian Heather Kuttai said the decision did not come lightly.

“I believed that the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission was an organization that upheld individual rights, demanded people uphold the rights of others, and enabled equality and equity. I was honoured to be a Commissioner … But I can no longer continue,” Kuttai wrote.

Kuttai said she has serious concerns with the majority Saskatchewan Party’s decision to invoke the notwithstanding clause to enact legislation requiring schools to seek parental permission to allow a child under 16-years-old to go by a different name or pronoun while at school.

The policy has been criticized widely as potentially harmful to children and ill-conceived, and a King’s Bench judge ordered a temporary pause on the policy until the potential Charter violations could be ruled on by a court.

Moe called the injunction “judicial overreach,” and vowed to use the notwithstanding clause to side-step the courts, calling the legislative session two weeks early to push the bill through.

“I cannot tell you the depth of my disappointment in the government I have worked for and supported for the last nine years, but I promise you that my efforts as a community builder and activist will only become stronger because of this enormous letdown,” Kuttai wrote.

Kuttai says the policy targets a small number of vulnerable youth.

“This is an attack on the rights of trans, non-binary, and gender-diverse children, which, contrary to what is being reported, is actually a very small number of kids,” she said.

"A child’s rights must always take precedence over a parent’s obligations and responsibilities. Removing a child’s rights in the name of ‘parental rights’ … is something I cannot be a part of, and I will not be associated with a provincial government that takes away the rights of children, especially vulnerable children.”

LGBTQ2S+ youth face a greater risk of abuse, violence and mental health troubles, says Kuttai, and this legislation may force teachers to “out” them before they are ready, turning “teachers into bullies.”

In a scrum with reporters on Monday, Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said he was unaware of Kuttai’s resignation, but it didn’t affect his confidence in the bill.

“I’m comfortable with where we’re at with this piece of legislation,” said Cockrill.

Justice Minister Bronwyn Eyre described the commissioner's resignation as evidence of why the policy is needed.

"There are different views on this policy. Certainly we see that and the reason that we're here is for clarity, to provide clarity for parents," Eyre said in a scrum at the legislature.

"Not everyone will agree with that and I'm sorry to hear that she doesn't."

For Kuttai, the potential harms of the bill cut close to the bone.

“My own son is trans. His coming out process was psychologically and physically harmful. This was even though he felt relatively confident that we, his parents, would still love him.”

The support her son received at school is one of the reasons he is now out and thriving, she said, but it’s unrealistic for the province to suggest that gender-diverse kids will receive all the counselling and guidance they need in schools under the new legislation.

“Not only are already there no extra resources for 2SLGBTQ+ youth, but there are also not enough resources for kids with learning or reading disabilities, or those who require testing and counselling. There are not enough Educational Assistants, class sizes are too big, and there are fewer and fewer supports for our province’s teachers.”

Trans and non-binary kids “do not have a prayer” of getting the help they deserve under these conditions, she says.

Kuttai was appointed to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission in 2014. Top Stories

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