It's a great day for parental rights!
The Parents’ Bill of Rights, Bill 137, which requires schools to obtain parental consent before a child under 16 can adopt a new name or pronoun at school passed yesterday morning in the Saskatchewan house.
As we said in our Monday email, this new law, with the use of the “notwithstanding clause,” represents the strongest example of “parental rights” legislation in Canadian history, or, at the very least, since the 1982 adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Premier Scott Moe, acknowledged his intent to shore up parental rights in comments to reporters Friday afternoon, saying the bill was about "providing parents the right — not the opportunity — to support their children in the formative years of their life." (“Sask. government passes Parents' Bill of Rights,” Adam Hunter, CBC News, Oct. 20, 2023)
The bill passed its first two readings with support from all Saskatchewan Party MLAs and the single Saskatchewan United Party MLA, Nadine Wilson.
“It is the government’s belief that parents are partners in their children’s education,” Dustin Duncan, the minister of Crown Investments Corporation and former education minister, said in the final debate Friday morning.
The allotted 40 hours of debate which began Monday night ended with a vote 40 minutes after debate time expired at 11:00 am CST.
Two Saskatchewan Party MLAs, Don Morgan and Gord Wyant — both former justice ministers — were absent for the final vote.
While speaking to reporters, Moe shot down the theory that the absences were intentional, saying "There's a number of individuals, MLAs on both sides of the house, that were not present today. Some were not present for personal reasons Some were not present for reasons that they were (exercising) or delivering on their government duties on both sides of both sides of the house". (“By law, Sask. youth under 16 now need parental consent before changing pronouns at school” Drew Postey, CTV News, October 20, 2023.)
Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said that going forward teachers would have to use children’s given names until parents provide permission for a name or pronoun change,
"We want children to have those conversations with their parents,” he said. “That's the intention."
Moe noted the government has expanded supports such as rapid access counselling for students who are afraid to tell their parents about their intentions to change their names.
"This is not in any way targeting anyone … this is about building those supports," Moe said.
Bill 137 also includes new rules surrounding sexual health education. From now on schools will be required to inform parents at least two weeks before sexual health instruction is given to children.
Parents will be given the ability to remove their child from the class.
By invoking the notwithstanding clause, Bill 137 cannot be overridden by a judge on the basis of supposed Charter rights for a period of five years.