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Saskatchewan judge to hear injunction application over school pronoun policy

REGINA — A Saskatchewan judge is to hear an injunction application that seeks to halt the province’s policy affecting children who use different pronouns at school. 

Lawyers for UR Pride, an organization representing LGBTQ people in Regina, are to argue in favour of the injunction.

The lawyers from Egale Canada and McCarthy Tétrault LLP say the policy violates two sections of the Charter, including equality rights and the right to security of the person.

The policy requires children under 16 to receive parental consent if they want to go by a different name or pronoun at school.

Premier Scott Moe has said his government remains committed to the policy, saying the province will do everything in its power to protect parental rights. 

Moe says to keep the policy in place, he would consider using the notwithstanding clause, a provision that allows governments to override certain Charter rights for up to five years.

Lawyers for UR Pride have said the injunction application is meant to stop the policy temporarily as it works its way through court and until a judge makes a decision. 

On Monday, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, John Howard Society and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund sought intervener status in the case, arguing they have expertise that could be helpful for court.

Mitch McAdam, the province’s lawyer, argued the organizations would not add much to the debate.

Justice Michael Megaw reserved his decision to grant intervener status, saying he will make a decision as soon as he can.

The judge gave both parties until Oct. 6 to submit their evidence. If granted, cross-examinations are to take place later that month. Arguments are then expected to be heard starting Nov. 20. 

McAdam said the attorney general is to rely on the “rights of parents” in its defence of the policy. 

“It’s true that the attorney general’s focus will be on the role of schools, what is the role of schools in these very difficult situations, and in these cases of conflict — or potential conflict — between children and their parents,” he added.

In her report released last week, Saskatchewan child advocate Lisa Broda said the province’s pronoun policy violates rights to gender identity and expression. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2023.

Jeremy Simes, The Canadian Press