Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

The Saskatchewan government received 18 official complaints in the summer before it implemented a rule preventing most children from changing their names or pronouns at school without parental consent.

The emails, recently obtained by The Canadian Press through an access-to-information request, were received in June and July and offer a first look into what may have influenced the government when it changed pronoun and sexual education rules in August.

The rules require students under 16 who want to change their names or pronouns to have permission from their parents. Third-party organizations are also banned from presenting sexual education, and parents can pull their children from such courses.

In the letters to the government, the complainants ask Saskatchewan to do something about pronouns, sexual education and Pride activities in schools.

Most urge the province to follow the New Brunswick government, which required parental consent over pronoun or name changes before Saskatchewan did.

It’s not known if the letter writers are Saskatchewan residents. The names and addresses are redacted.

“If New Brunswick can take a stand against this UN-backed deterioration of our society surely Saskatchewan can also take a stand as well,” says one letter.

Another person, who identified as a grandparent, writes: “It’s OK to be proud of being LGBT+ but not of being straight we have gone from the ditch of persecuting non-heterosexuals to the ditch of giving in to their every whim.”

One complainant, who identified as a parent, says children can be easily manipulated.

“I want God taught in school if (gay) Pride is taught,” says the letter.

“If there is a Pride week/day, then I want a God week/day, and a Black week/day, a white week/day, an Irish week/day, a straight week/day, a week/day for every single race, religion, culture in the whole school.”

One parent says they pulled their child from Pride activities and wished the school would let other parents know about the option to do so.

“There has been a lot of pushback on Pride this year, and I feel 100 per cent that it’s because gender ideology isn’t merely being celebrated — it’s being pushed down our throats.”

After Saskatchewan announced the pronoun rule in August, lawyers for UR Pride, a Regina LGBTQ group, challenged it, arguing it’s discriminatory because it could result in teachers misgendering or outing students unable to get parental consent.

During a court hearing, the province’s lawyers said Saskatchewan received 18 letters from June to August, then developed a draft of the rule in nine days.

Court heard people also told legislature members they had concerns about pronouns. The Education Ministry said not all school divisions had a policy on the matter and there should be one applied consistently.

A judge granted an injunction to temporarily pause the pronoun rule. But Premier Scott Moe called the legislature back early to enshrine it in legislation and invoked the notwithstanding clause.

The court challenge is expected to be heard again in January. The province plans to argue the case is moot.

The province said in an email this week the 18 letters “are just one snapshot” and that it has heard from “thousands” of parents.

“As a government, we had been considering this policy for several months, particularly following the decision of one school division to exclude parents from obtaining crucial information about their children,” the government said.

“Many school divisions in Saskatchewan had similar practices in place before the policy was implemented.”

Moe has said he’s heard from people at grocery stores telling him they support the rule and that parents should be involved in their children’s lives at school.

Former education minister Dustin Duncan has argued that parents have to consent when their children go on field trips, so pronoun or name changes should be no different. Some of the 18 letters include the same point.

Jeremy Cockrill, the current education minister, has also said he’s heard from “tens of thousands” or “thousands” of parents about the need for parental consent.

Cockrill has said the rule came after Regina Public Schools changed in 2022 a guideline that allowed students to be called by a different name or pronoun. The school division later said the minister had not asked about the guideline at the time.

Action4Canada, a national Christian organization, claimed in September it influenced the government to make the pronoun change after it sent 10,000 emails to legislature members. The province denied the group’s influence.

As part of developing the policy, Saskatchewan said it looked to see if other provinces had pronoun rules. It identified New Brunswick as the only other province to show a parental consent requirement.

In September, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association filed a challenge against New Brunswick over the policy.

— This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 18, 2023.

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