A community organization representing LGBTQ people in Regina has filed a lawsuit against the Saskatchewan government over pronoun policies affecting children at school.
The UR Pride Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity filed an application Thursday in Saskatchewan’s Court of King’s Bench asking a judge to overturn the changes.
“This policy is fundamentally unconstitutional,” said Bennett Jensen, director of legal affairs at Egale Canada, a national LGBTQ advocacy organization. Egale is legal counsel on the application.
“There’s also a more human response, which is that it puts gender-diverse students at real risk. We know they will be hurt if this policy is allowed to go into effect.”
The state announced earlier this month that it requires parental consent when children under 16 want to use different names or pronouns in school.
In its filing, UR Pride said the rules are not justified under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and deny gender-diverse students a basic right to a free and democratic society, which includes “a safe and welcoming educational environment where they should be. “.
The organization says the policy pushes out children who aren’t ready to identify themselves to their parents or others, putting them in a potentially harmful situation if they’re not accepted.
He says it also leads to mis-gendering, as teachers are required to use students’ birth names rather than their chosen names unless they get parental consent.
The organization says the walkouts and sexual misconduct violate Section 7 of the Charter, which grants “life, liberty and security of the person,” and Section 15, which guarantees equality rights for every individual without discrimination.
“The policy presents an impossible choice: come out at home or be misgendered at school, even during one-on-one counseling sessions with school staff,” the filing said. “Either outcome would cause devastating and irreparable harm to a vulnerable young person.”
The Saskatchewan government and all 27 school divisions in the province are named as respondents in the application. It says the defendants have the right to respond in court on September 14.
In an emailed statement Thursday, the Saskatchewan Party government said it stands by the policy.
“The Government maintains its position that parents and carers have a key role to play in protecting and supporting their children as they grow and develop, and will do everything possible to protect parental rights,” the spokesman said.
Jensen of Yegail is concerned about governments using gender-diverse youth as political pawns, which is happening in New Brunswick as well as elsewhere in the United States.
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“No one argues that parents should not be involved in their children’s lives. We know, especially in the queer and trans community, how important having supportive families in the picture can be,” Jensen said.
“We’re just really talking about young people having an area of privacy and independence to figure out who they are and do it at their own pace.”
UR Pride said it is requesting a public interest waiver because the organization believes the changes are essential.
It filed with the support of Egale Canada, a national LGBTQ advocacy organization, and McCarthy Tetrault LLP, which specializes in the Charter.
“The policy represents a drastic and retrograde change from current practices in Saskatchewan school districts,” the filing states.
“Teachers and school staff were able to use and practice their professional judgment to adopt the best course of action in the given situation.
“Teachers and other school staff could therefore, and did, play an invaluable role in helping students feel safe.”
It said it appeared the government had not consulted properly before making the rules.
The new policy also creates a situation where LGBTQ youth are singled out, the appendix says, because the preferred names and pronouns of non-transgender students are “consistently and automatically respected and viewed in the school environment.”
“Politics therefore creates a clear distinction based on gender identity and expression.”
UR Pride has requested that it be relieved of any adverse costs if the application is unsuccessful.
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