Politicians and advocates are clashing over whether parental permission should be required for teachers to use a student’s preferred pronouns at school. While supporters argue that involving parents is important, opponents contend that these policies prioritize parental rights over the well-being and safety of transgender and nonbinary students who may not feel supported at home.
Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, criticizes the use of “parental rights” as a political argument, suggesting it can easily garner support from those who believe parents should be involved in their children’s decisions. However, she emphasizes the importance of young people having agency over their own bodies and identities, including their gender expression. Studies have shown that transgender youth who are able to use their preferred names and pronouns experience significant decreases in suicidal thoughts and attempts.
The debate over parental rights policies has played out in two provinces. In New Brunswick, Premier Blaine Higgs reviewed and amended an educational policy, now requiring parental consent for teachers to use different names or pronouns for students under 16. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has taken legal action, challenging parts of the policy that they believe contradict the rights and freedoms protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and provincial legislation.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has introduced a similar policy and intends to make it law, possibly even using a constitutional override clause. Organizations like the UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity and Egale Canada are challenging this policy in court.
Kerri Froc, a constitutional law professor, believes that while parents have the right to make decisions for their children, it is crucial to consider the impact of these policies on marginalized students. Froc raises concerns about the policies explicitly targeting transgender students, while not applying the same requirements for students with ethnic name changes.
The debate has extended beyond provincial politics, with the recent Conservative party convention featuring a motion to prohibit “life-altering” interventions for gender-diverse and transgender youth under 18. The outcome of this proposal and its potential inclusion in the party’s platform or legislation is yet to be determined.
This ongoing public debate has caused fear among affected children and highlights the societal challenges in fostering affirming child-parent relationships. In the absence of this support, children will turn to friends and schools to share their authentic selves. Restricting their ability to do so without parental involvement can leave children in difficult situations.
The most crucial aspect of this debate is providing support to young people as they navigate their identities and how they present themselves to the world. Open dialogue and understanding must be fostered to ensure the well-being of transgender and nonbinary students.
Source: The Canadian Press