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Alberta seeks to intervene in Saskatchewan pronoun change law appeal

The Alberta government announced Tuesday that it is seeking intervenor status in a legal challenge against the Saskatchewan government’s pronoun change law.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s government passed the Parents’ Bill of Rights using the notwithstanding clause to prevent Charter challenges last October, which prevents children under 16 from changing their names and pronouns in school without parental permission.

According to Saskatchewan’s education minister, Jeremy Cockrill, the Parents’ Bill of Rights is an “inclusionary policy that ensures that parents are at the forefront of every important decision in their child’s life.”

Moe said at the time that the policy is about involving parents in their children’s lives.

“This is not about targeting anyone in any way,” Moe said last October. “This is about building other supports and providing parents a right to be involved in their child’s education and life.”

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The move was widely criticized, with human rights and advocacy groups saying the law would endanger the lives of trans, non-binary and gender-diverse youth across Saskatchewan.

UR Pride, an LGBTQ2 group in Regina, filed a legal challenge in January, arguing the Parents’ Bill of Rights violates the rights of transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse youth to a safe environment in school.

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The following month, a Saskatchewan judge ruled the court challenge could proceed, despite lawyers for the Saskatchewan government asking the judge to dismiss the challenge on the grounds the law doesn’t breach the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The lawyers also argued the law was passed in the best interest of gender-diverse children and youth.

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In a joint statement on Tuesday afternoon, Alberta Justice Minister Mickey Amery and Saskatchewan’s attorney general Bronwyn Eyre said in a statement that notifying a child’s parents before names and pronouns can be changed in schools “ensures that the parent-child relationship is respected and paramount.”

The Alberta government has written to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal advising its intention to apply to intervene in the case.

Alberta argues that Saskatchewan’s use of the notwithstanding clause in the Charter should have prevented a review of the legislation’s constitutionality. The Alberta government also argues that the review will not only impact parental rights across Canada but also the application of the notwithstanding clause, which the province says is an “integral piece” of the Charter and the Constitution of Canada.

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“Saskatchewan and Alberta agree that the key figures in children’s lives are their parents, and our provinces are both committed to supporting families and children so that they can work through unique needs together. Notifying parents and requiring their consent before a child’s name or pronouns can be changed in schools, and before classroom discussions about gender identity and other sensitive subjects occur, ensures that the parent-child relationship is respected and paramount,” the joint statement reads.

“Alberta has written to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal advising of our intention to apply to intervene in Saskatchewan’s appeal of the UR Pride decision of the Saskatchewan Court of Kings Bench.”

This comes more than two months after Alberta Premier Danielle Smith proposed new legislation that will require parental notification and consent if a child 15 years or younger changes their name and pronouns at school. The legislation will also ban gender-reassignment surgery for children aged 17 and under, and ban puberty blockers or hormone therapies as part of gender-affirming care for anyone 15 and under.

Smith said the proposal, which is expected to be tabled into the fall, aims to stop youth from making “life-changing” and “permanent” biological decisions before they are old enough to do so.

The proposal also received wide criticism from advocacy groups and the Alberta New Democrats. Egale Canada and Skipping Stone Foundation said they will be seeking legal action if the legislation is passed.

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–With files from Global News’ Andrew Benson and The Canadian Press. 

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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