Avery Grapentine says they walked out of school Tuesday over fears the government is taking away their rights.
The Grade 11 student was among dozens from at least six Regina high schools who left class in protest of the Saskatchewan government’s proposed pronoun legislation.
“I’m also afraid for the rights of my fellow trans people,” Grapentine said outside school.
“It’s just very disingenuous because I think it’s just hiding (the government’s) true intentions.”
The walkouts in Regina were among others that had been planned across the province.
Those who participated say the legislation is harmful to students who aren’t ready to come out to their parents at home.
They said it’s also detrimental for gender-diverse students to not be called by their chosen names or pronouns. The bill says school staff must call students by their birth names and pronouns if consent is not provided.
“It’s just very sad,” said Salem Ulmer, a Grade 11 student who walked out.
“I started talking to some students inside the school and there were students that didn’t want to come [protest] because they were scared that they were going to be outed.”
The Saskatchewan Party government introduced legislation last week requiring parental consent when children under 16 want to change their names or pronouns at school.
The legislation invokes the notwithstanding clause, overriding sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Saskatchewan’s Human Rights Code.
Premier Scott Moe recalled the legislature for an emergency session to debate and pass the legislation. The move came after a judge granted an injunction to pause the policy until a constitutional challenge could be heard in court later this year.
When asked about the walkouts, Moe told reporters the bill is meant to bring parents closer to their children’s lives.
“We always want to be looking at how do we support our children through some very formative years of their life,” he said. “We firmly believe having every avenue open for parents to be involved as part of that support group is not only the best situation, in our opinion, but the best situation as well in many experts’ opinion.”
Moe has said the policy has strong support from the majority of Saskatchewan residents and parents.
Saskatchewan child advocate Lisa Broda said in a September report that it violates rights to gender identity and expression.
Legal professionals have also said the bill fails to prevent harm, arguing the supports that are to be provided aren’t adequate.
Renn Roberts, a Grade 10 student who left school Tuesday afternoon, said the legislation has forced students to become more political.
“It’s kind of forcing people to pick a side, either they’re supporters or not,” they said.
“It’s made my existence a lot more controversial than it used to be. I used to be able to just kind of go around and be another student, and now I have to be this advocate, and I feel this pressure to advocate for people who can’t advocate for themselves.”
Heather Kuttai, a former Saskatchewan human rights commissioner, resigned on Monday over the proposed legislation, calling it an attack on transgender and gender-diverse youth.