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Sask. youth advocate 'deeply troubled' by new pronoun policy


The Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth will review a new policy requiring students under 16 years old to seek parental consent before changing their pronouns or preferred first name in a school setting.

"I just learned about this policy in the media and have not been privy or advised of these changes," the province's youth advocate Lisa Broda said in a news release.

On Tuesday, Saskatchewan education minister Dustin Duncan announced that schools will need parental consent before letting a student change their preferred name or gender pronoun.

“If we are requiring school divisions to get parental consent to go to a half-day field trip to the science center, then I think we need to be treating this issue with the same amount of seriousness," Duncan said during a news conference.

Broda said she is compelled under her legislative authority to review any policies that may affect children.

"I am deeply troubled the the impact this policy will have on the rights of children in Saskatchewan," Broda said.

"We are mindful that at times there may be a need to balance competing rights, but it is important to ensure that children's rights are not undermined in the process, Broda said.

The youth advocate's review will take into account the rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.

The news release said Boda will also examine the new policy through the lens of the Supreme Court of Canada's "mature minor" doctrine that "holds that youth under 16 have the right to demonstrate whether they are able to exercise mature and indeed judgment in making decisions."

"There is no question that there are significant risks to the mental and physical safety of gender and sexually diverse youth who are not supported to express their authentic selves and their safety and well-being needs to be at the fore of any policy," Broda said.

A similar review was recently completed by New Brunswick's youth advocate. Earlier this year, the provincial government there introduced rules limiting the use of preferred names or pronouns by gender-diverse youth under the age of 16.

Following the review, New Brunswick's child advocate said the policy change violated the Charter rights of children.

Another policy change announced on Tuesday in Saskatchewan will require schools to share sexual health education materials with parents and caregivers. Under the new rules, parents and caregivers will have the option of opting their children out of sex-ed.

The policy changes come after the newly-formed Saskatchewan United Party gobbled up a considerable slice of the vote in a byelection held in the constituency of Lumsden-Morse earlier this month.

Sask. United campaigned on the controversy sparked by a Planned Parenthood sexual health resource that was provided to Grade 9 students in the town of Lumsden.




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