Saskatchewan & the "Notwithstanding Clause"

What is going on in Saskatchewan?  What is the “parental rights” legislation that Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe plans to introduce this week? Why is he invoking the “notwithstanding clause”?

In brief, Premier Moe isn’t wasting any time pushing forward legislation that invokes the notwithstanding clause to ensure parental consent is required for students to change the names and pronouns they use at school.

Moe’s Minister of Education, Jeremy Cockrill, implemented a “parental consent/ name change/ pronoun policy in the province in September. A few weeks later,  however, a Saskatchewan judge called a temporary halt to the new policy with an injunction, saying that the policy could cause irreparable harm to gender diverse students.

In response, Premier Moe almost immediately countered the judge’s decision with a swift declaration that the government would recall the legislature and pass a law enshrining the new policy and override the judge by invoking the Constitution’s “notwithstanding clause.”

The notwithstanding clause is a constitutional tool that allows federal, provincial, and territorial legislatures to suspend certain Charter rights for a period of up to five years, at which time it must be renewed to continue.

Last week (on October 3), Premier Moe expressed confidence that the bill would pass in an interview with reporter Stefani Langenegger on CBC radio. You can listen to the full interview here. Read further below for my recap and analysis of this illuminating interview.

The legislature resumed sitting yesterday, and it is expected that the new parental rights law will be introduced tomorrow, October 12.


The CBC reporter Ms. Langenegger asked Moe the obvious question: why use the notwithstanding clause now? Why not wait until the court process plays out?

Multiple times, Moe stated he was pursuing this course of action to provide clarity on a muddied issue and to fulfill the promise he made to protect his parental rights policy up to and including the use of the notwithstanding clause.

Moe insisted that, in addition to protecting parental rights, the school divisions also needed clarity as to what policy to implement.

In my view, Moe held his own against the reporter’s relentless pursuit of the question, “why the rush,” reiterating the same arguments.

Ms. Langenegger brought up a claim made by the judge during the injunction hearing to the effect, that, in the court proceedings, the government was unable to provide any evidence of consultation with parents indicating that there was a widespread problem with children blindsiding their parents with announcements about their gender changes.

Moe dismissed the judge’s claim, saying, “Most certainly if it is the case then this policy would have no impact.”

Moe responded as he has done for the past few weeks that his office had received many thousands of emails on this issue since he announced the policy change, and previous inquiries to his MLA constituency office.  Moe refused to point to one specific case of an outraged parent in his own riding, but instead referred to a surging demand for action from parents, “A vast call of parents over not just weeks or months but some period of time now.

The reporter also asked if parental notification is demanded in such circumstances, shouldn’t parents also be notified before their children are allowed to join a gay-straight alliance club at school? In my opinion, this was the most important and insightful question of the interview.

Moe’s response was that the two issues are categorically different. This may ring hollow to some parents who might connect the dots with their children’s exposure to gender theory at these meetings and their decisions to adopt another sexual or gender identity. But that is another argument for another time.

The reporter also made two other heavily loaded inquiries. She challenged Moe on whether as the judge claimed, this policy was likely to put “gender diverse children” at risk.

Moe responded vigorously that he also had questions about that given that in some school divisions “very similar policies have been in place for some period of time.” He said that most if not all experts on trans kids recognize the importance of having family and parents be part of such major life decisions:

“And the parents and family can be one of, if not the most, supportive individuals when those decisions are made. And that’s recognized by most, if virtually not all, experts.”

 He went on to describe supports built into the system to prevent children from being harmed by parents who might oppose their decisions to socially transition:

“implementation plans in place so the school can identify what the challenge is:  whether it be this policy or any other challenge that our child is facing, to wrap those supports around the child so that they may approach their parents, or so that, if it’s something more serious than that, there’s other protocols that ultimately take place.”

Second, she asked Moe his opinion on what would happen legally if a parent didn’t agree with the child’s decision to transition. Moe replied that there would be a collision of rights. This means that in such an instance the parents’ rights conflict with the child’s rights. He didn’t speculate as to how a judge might approach such a question, but unstated in those lines was the necessity to move forward with the notwithstanding clause.

The legislature resumed sitting yesterday, and it is expected that the new parental rights law will be introduced tomorrow, October 12.

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  • Teresa Pierre
    published this page in BLOG 2023-10-11 11:50:41 -0400