UR Pride takes legal action against Sask. pronoun consent policy – Regina Leader Post

The UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity has taken legal action aimed at the province’s new pronoun policy for students under the age of 16.

The action, which comes by way of what’s known as an originating application, was filed Thursday in Regina’s Court of King’s Bench, and names the provincial government, along with Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions, as respondents.

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The non-profit centre is represented by Adam Goldenberg of Toronto law firm McCarthy Tétrault LLP, who signed the application. International LGBTQ+ rights lobby organization Egale Canada has identified themselves as providing legal support.

The court action follows through on an ultimatum issued Tuesday by legal counsel in a letter to Minister of Education Jeremy Cockrill.

A letter, undersigned on behalf of UR Pride and executive director Ariana Giroux, called on the minister to agree to voluntarily stop the policy from coming into effect by Wednesday, or UR Pride would seek a court injunction to compel them so.

In response to an inquiry about the letter and its request, Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Education said government “remains committed to implementing the policy.”

“The Government maintains its position that parents and guardians have a key role in protecting and supporting their children as they grow and develop and will do everything in its power to protect parental rights,” the ministry said in an email statement.

As a whole, the UR Pride application effectively seeks to have a judge stop the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education’s policy entitled “Use of Preferred First Name and Pronouns by Students” from being implemented, and further strike it down for being unconstitutional.

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It does this in parts.

It asks a judge to direct school divisions not to implement or enforce the policy until the matter has been legally settled.

It further highlights two parts of the policy, which it asks a judge to declare to be of no force and effect.

The first being where school staff is required to obtain parental or guardian consent when a student under age 16 wants their “preferred name, gender identity, and/or gender expression” to be used. This, the application calls the “Outing Requirement.”

The second being the part requiring staff not to comply with the student’s request, absent that consent. This, the application terms the “Misgendering Requirement.”

The application states that the policy limits the right, guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to equality by creating a distinction based on gender expression and identity “that specifically targets gender diverse students under the age of 16.”

It further states the policy limits the Charter right not to be deprived of security of the person because, for some such students, “obtaining parental consent is not feasible,” and the policy exposes them to the risk of “psychological, emotional and even physical harm.”

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It asks a judge to make a declaration that the policy limits these rights, and that the limits aren’t reasonable or justifiable.

The application further states that, since what it terms the “Outing” and “Misgendering” requirements are unconstitutional, and the policy “cannot stand without these unlawful requirements,” a judge should strike down the entire policy.

Emily Coates and Daniel McCullough share their message, as nearly 400 people gathered at the Saskatoon Southeast constituency office of MLA Don Morgan on Sunday to protest new Saskatchewan Government policies requiring schools to seek parental consent when a student under 16 wants to change their name or pronouns. Photo by Rob O’Flanagan /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Equality program director Harini Sivalingam said it’s “unlikely” CCLA would file a competing action, but may seek to be included as a friend to the court on UR Pride’s litigation.

Saskatchewan is the second province to introduce a pronoun consent policy, following New Brunswick in June. The CCLA is also speaking against that policy, but has not yet filed legal action as the organization was awaiting the conclusion of a review from the province’s child and youth advocate, delivered earlier this month.

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A revised policy released last week did not “address the concerns raised about the original policy” regarding children’s autonomy and privacy, and CCLA still actively considering court action.

Since Saskatchewan’s announcement, Ontario education minister Stephan Leece expressed his belief that “parents have a right to know” if a child is changing pronouns at school, but stopped short of committing to legislation.

Manitoba premier Heather Stefanson also said this month she would expand parental rights as part of her platform, if re-elected.

“It’s an alarming trend we’re seeing,” said Sivalingam. “We are deeply concerned about this spreading across the country.”

She said the fact more than one entity is willing to challenge these policies in court “shows how badly, how poorly implemented and how poorly drafted these policies are.”

“That should send a strong message to governments, that there’s something wrong with this and that it is not working.”

The application is to be heard on Sept. 14 in King’s Bench in Regina.

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