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Premier Blaine Higgs speaks in the New Brunswick legislature on Oct. 18, 2023. Image: Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick video capture

Policy 713 dominates first Question Period

By Brad Perry Oct 18, 2023 | 5:31 PM

New Brunswick’s school gender identity policy was front and centre during the first Question Period of the new legislative session.

Liberal leader Susan Holt pressed the government Wednesday about controversial changes made to Policy 713 earlier this year.

Teachers are no longer allowed to use a trans or non-binary child under 16’s preferred name or pronoun, formally or informally, without parental consent.

Students have always required parental consent for their preferred first name and pronoun to be used for official records, however, there was nothing preventing a teacher from doing so informally.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association recently filed a legal challenge, alleging the changes are contrary to the Education Act and Human Rights Act, and violate Charter rights for trans and gender diverse students.

“New Brunswickers are looking for answers. They want to know, is this premier planning to use the notwithstanding clause if the court decision doesn’t go in his favour,” said Holt.

In response, Education Minister Bill Hogan said parents have a fundamental role to play in their children’s lives.

“It would be inappropriate to look in the future and presuppose what the court’s going to decide on the current challenge that’s before it and speculate on what may happen in the future,” said Hogan.

“I personally believe that we’re in the right, we’re on the right side of this question, we’re on the right side of this issue and that the court will rule in our favour.”

Holt pressed again, asking the minister to reassure New Brunswickers that he would not use the notwithstanding clause.

Premier Blaine Higgs responded instead, reiterating much of what Hogan had to say in his answer.

The Liberal leader also called on the premier to apologize for comments he made in September during a “1 Million March 4 Children” rally in Fredericton.

Higgs told reporters that students were “being taught to lie” to their parents under the old version of the policy.

Green Party leader David Coon also put forward a motion calling on the premier to apologize. He said many teachers “have never felt so disrespected in their teaching careers.”