The eagerly awaited “pronoun” bill from the Scott Moe government was introduced in the Saskatchewan legislature this past Thursday, Oct. 12. Bill 137, also known as the Parental Bill of Rights, enshrines the parental right to grant consent before their child seeks to change their name or pronouns at school.
The bill further invokes the notwithstanding clause, which means that it cannot be overridden by a judge on the basis of supposed Charter rights.
"Parents should always be involved in important decisions involving their children," said Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill. "The parental inclusion and consent policy introduced in August and now this new legislation we are introducing today will ensure that continues to be the case."
The government offered to double the debate time on the bill from 20 hours to 40 hours over the next week. NDP Opposition house leader Nicole Sarauer rejected the time period as inadequate, saying that several months were called for instead, especially given that children’s rights were at stake.
Minister Cockrill was asked about Bill 137 trumping children’s rights.
"I think over the next number of days we're going to get into a debate on the collision of rights and how the notwithstanding clause addresses that. I know I'm comfortable with the legislation that's been introduced today and how that will play out," Cockrill said.
Saskatchewan MLAs will return to the house later today. It is expected that debate will take place daily from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday this coming week.
The government decided to invoke the notwithstanding when a judge put a temporary halt on the government’s previously announced “parental consent policy with an injunction.
Justice Megaw wrote that, until there can be a full hearing, "the importance of the governmental policy is outweighed by the public interest of not exposing that minority of students to exposure to the potentially irreparable harm and mental health difficulty of being unable to find expression for their gender identity."
Premier Moe called Megaw’s decision "judicial overreach, " and we at Parents as First Educators agree.
We further applaud Minister Cockrill’s position that, given the confusion over the previous policy’s implementation by the government, then its sudden temporary suspension by the judge, Bill 137 would be providing clarity “that the policy will remain in place."
Seeing that Premier Moe’s Saskatchewan Party has a solid majority in the Saskatchewan legislature, Bill 137 is expected to become law.
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.