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CCLA granted public interest standing in Policy 713 suit

By Brad Perry Dec 22, 2023 | 12:30 PM

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has been granted public interest standing in its Policy 713 lawsuit.

It is suing the provincial government over controversial changes made to its gender identity policy in schools.

Teachers can no longer verbally use a child under 16’s preferred name or pronoun without parental consent.

CCLA argues that the process of revising the policy was “fundamentally flawed and unfair” as it excluded education, medical and legal experts and those directly affected by the changes.

It said the revisions are contrary to the Education Act and Human Rights Act, and violate Charter rights for trans and gender diverse students.

“In my view, there is no doubt that the application which the CCLA seeks to bring against the [Education] Minister indeed raises serious justiciable issues, and there is nothing to suggest the legal challenge is frivolous,” Court of King’s Bench Justice Robert Dysart wrote in his decision, released Thursday.

The CCLA argues that those who are most directly affected by the changes cannot bring this court challenge without being asked to disclose their gender identity and their preferred names and pronouns to their parents.

It also pointed to the stigma related to matters of gender identity and the risk that any individual who brings forward a court challenge could face public bullying, harassment and threats.

“I am satisfied that if the CCLA is not granted public interest standing to bring this application, it is unlikely that any affected citizen of this province will do so given the significant financial and legal barriers facing them, let alone the public scrutiny and potential for harassment,” wrote Dysart.

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

But the education minister later clarified that the use of names in the classroom and extracurricular activities is now considered to be formal, meaning it will require parental consent.

New Brunswick’s child and youth advocate has said that the policy is now more “overtly discriminatory” than before.

No date has been given for when the lawsuit will be heard in court.