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Phylomène Zangio is the chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission. Image: Submitted

Human Rights Commission issues statement on Policy 713

By Brad Perry Jun 20, 2023 | 5:38 AM

The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission says it will continue to uphold the rights and obligations of all New Brunswickers.

A statement from the commission’s new chair comes amid ongoing debate over the government’s LGBTQ+ policy in schools.

Phylomène Zangio said in Monday’s statement that the conversation around Policy 713 is “complex and ongoing.”

“In light of this and its legal mandate, the commission will not comment on developing situations or speculate about matters that have not yet been submitted for its review as part of a formal complaint of discrimination,” said Zangio.

“This aspect of our function may not be understood but is required in order for the commission to remain an impartial guardian of human rights in the province.”

Education Minister Bill Hogan introduced controversial changes to Policy 713 earlier this month.

Set to take effect on July 1, the updated policy requires trans and non-binary students under 16 to receive parental consent to officially change their preferred name and pronouns in school.

The previous policy also required parental consent but included a path forward if the school was unable to get parental consent.

In those cases, schools would put a plan in place to support the student in managing the use of the preferred name in the learning environment.

Now, school professionals such as social workers or psychologists will work with students to help them speak with their parents — if and when they are ready to do so.

Six Tory MLAs, including four cabinet ministers, sided with a Liberal motion passed in the legislature last week related to Policy 713, including Dorothy Shephard, who later resigned as social development minister.

The motion urged the government to ask the child and youth advocate to conduct a consultation on changes to the policy and their impact. Not long after the motion was passed, Lamrock confirmed that he would do what MLAs had asked.

Commission weighed in previously on proposed changes

Previous chair Claire Roussel-Sullivan, whose three-year term expired on Friday, issued a statement on May 15 explaining the commission’s position on the proposed changes to Policy 713.

Roussel-Sullivan said the commission was concerned by the province’s decision to review the policy and emphasized that the government is obligated to safeguard the equality and dignity of all children in school.

“These obligations ensue from the government’s commitments under the international, national, and provincial human rights system,” Roussel-Sullivan said in the statement.

Roussel-Sullivan said Policy 713 is aligned with fundamental rights enshrined in the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the New Brunswick Human Rights Act.

Articles 28 and 29 of the CRC say parties must ensure their education systems nuture respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and allow each child to develop their own “cultural identity, language and values.”

From a constitutional level, Roussel-Sullivan said the province’s laws and regulations must follow the charter and its fundamental freedoms and equality rights.

Meanwhile, the province’s Human Rights Act protects everyone from discrimination under the grounds of gender identity or expression and sexual orientation, ensuring equal rights for LGBTQI2S+ students in the education system.

“The government has a moral, legal, and constitutional obligation to protect and promote these human rights, and to educate New Brunswickers that these rights and obligations apply equally to all persons in our province,” said Roussel-Sullivan.


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