Canada’s Saskatchewan passes school gender identity bill

Scott Moe
Saskatchewan's Scott Moe said the bill ensures parents can be involved in their children's education (Image:

A controversial bill that requires young students to get parental consent to change their pronouns in school has passed in a Canadian province.

Saskatchewan used a constitutional override to pass the bill after a court granted an injunction that paused the policy.

It had been challenged by an LGBT organisation.

The bill outlines a parent’s right to be the “primary decision-maker” in a child’s education.

Bill 137 passed on Friday after a marathon 40-hour debate this week.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe told reporters on Friday that the bill was about “providing parents the right – not the opportunity – to support their children in the formative years of their life”.

It includes provisions for parents to be informed of issues around attendance, behaviour, disciplinary action and grades. But the provision requiring parental consent if a student under 16 asks for a new “gender-related name or gender identity” be used at school sparked controversy.

The policy, and Mr Moe’s use of the notwithstanding clause to pass it, received significant criticism, including from Saskatchewan’s human rights commissioner.

Earlier this week, commissioner Heather Kuttai resigned from her position over the policy.

“My husband and I have a kid who is trans,” Ms Kuttai said in a letter announcing her resignation, in which she called the policy “an attack on the rights of trans, nonbinary, and gender diverse children”.

Opposition leader Carla Beck, of the left-leaning New Democrats, called the move a backward step in the history of Saskatchewan politics.

The policy has also been opposed by some students, and a school walk-out was staged on Tuesday in the province’s capital, Regina, as well as in other cities.

Earlier this year, a similar policy was brought in by New Brunswick, a province in Atlantic Canada.

Mr Moe used the power of the notwithstanding clause to pass Bill 137. The clause gives provincial legislatures and parliament the ability to override certain portions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It functions essentially as an option for provinces to set aside certain rights for a five-year period.

The province announced the school policy change this summer. Last month a judge ruled that the policy should be delayed until a constitutional challenge could be heard.

The ruling came after the UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity sought an injunction, claiming the measure violated Charter rights and could lead to teachers misgendering students.

The clause was once rarely-used, but has been invoked several times in recent years.

One recent controversial example is Quebec’s use of the clause to pass a law in 2019 that bars civil servants from wearing religious symbols at work, including the hijab and the kippah.

How schools address sexual orientation and gender has become a flashpoint in Canada, and last month rallies were held in major cities by people protesting LGBT-inclusive education policies, some drawing counter-protests.


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