A community organization representing LGBTQ people in Regina has filed legal action against the Saskatchewan government over a pronoun policy affecting children at school.
The UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity filed an originating application Thursday in the Saskatchewan Court of King’s Bench requesting a judge strike down the changes.
The province announced earlier this month it is requiring parental consent when children under 16 want to use different names or pronouns at school.
In its application, UR Pride said the rules are not justifiable under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and deny gender-diverse students basic entitlement in a free and democratic society, which includes “a safe and welcoming educational environment in which to be themselves.”
The organization said the policy outs children who aren’t ready to express their identity to their parents or others, putting them in potential harm if they’re not accepted.
It said it also results in misgendering, as teachers are required to use students’ birth names, not their chosen names, if they don’t receive parental consent.
The organization said outing and misgendering violate Section 7 of the Charter, which gives “life, liberty, and security of the person,” and Section 15, which provides equality rights to every individual, without discrimination.
“The policy presents an impossible choice: be outed at home or be misgendered at school, even in one-on-one counselling sessions with school personnel,” the application stated. “Either outcome entails devastating and irreparable harm to a vulnerable young person.”
The Saskatchewan government and all of the province’s 27 school divisions are named as respondents in the application. It states the respondents have a right to state their response in court on Sept. 14.
In an e-mailed statement Thursday, the Saskatchewan Party government said it remains committed to the policy.
“The government maintains its position that parents and guardians have a key role in protecting and supporting their children as they grow and develop, and will do everything in its power to protect parental rights,” a spokesperson said.
UR Pride said it’s requesting it be granted public interest standing, as the organization believes the changes are substantial.
It filed the application with support from Egale Canada, a national LGBTQ advocacy organization, and with assistance from McCarthy Tetrault LLP, a law firm with expertise in the Charter.
“The policy represents a dramatic and regressive change from existing practices in Saskatchewan school districts,” the application said.
“Teachers and school personnel were able to use – and did use in practice – their professional judgment to adopt the best course of action in the circumstances.
“Teachers and other school personnel, thus could, and did, play an invaluable role in helping students feel safe.”
It said it appears the government did not properly consult before enacting the rules.
The new policy also creates a situation where LGBTQ youth are singled out, the application said, as the preferred names and pronouns of non-transgender students are “consistently and automatically respected and observed within the school environment.”
“The policy, therefore, creates a clear distinction based on gender identity and expression.”
UR Pride has requested it be relieved of any adverse costs if its application is unsuccessful.