If a public school student under 16 wants to be referred to by his own “preferred pronouns,” does the school need to go to his parents? Does the school need to get parental consent? In Saskatchewan, the provincial government has said yes. But then, yesterday, Regina judge Michael Megaw decided no. At the request of an LGBT lobby group, the judge granted an injunction – a stop-for-now order – against the government’s parental consent policy.
Then, in a very rare move, Saskatchewan’s Premier Scott Moe announced he is recalling the province’s legislative assembly on October 10, to use Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to override the judge’s ruling.
Section 33 is better known as the “notwithstanding clause,” which gives legislatures and Parliament the power to override sections of the Charter, though only for 5 years at a time. Any legislation invoking the clause has an automatic five-year expiration date, at which time the legislation will either lapse or have to be renewed again. The clause was included in the Charter to keep the judiciary from becoming too powerful, “interpreting” the Charter to fit their own preferences. It was included as a tool for reining in activist judges.
Premier Moe minced no words in defending the move, even though it is extremely unusual.
“Our government is extremely dismayed by the judicial overreach of the court blocking implementation of the Parental Inclusion and Consent policy – a policy which has the strong support of a majority of Saskatchewan residents, in particular, Saskatchewan parents. The default position should never be to keep a child’s information from their parents.”
He went on to explain that:
“It is in the best interest of children to ensure parents are included in their children’s education, in their classrooms and in all important decisions involving their children.”
The announcement came a week after the “1 Million March 4 Children” rallies, held in towns and cities across Canada, to speak up for children in the face of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum and activism.
The move also comes after work by supporters of WeNeedaLAW.ca and the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association to promote parental rights, albeit to a different end. Their efforts were in defense of the unborn, promoting a law that would require parental consent before minors can have an abortion. But have their years of effort borne fruit in this other direction?
Saskatchewan isn’t on its own in taking a stand. In June, the New Brunswick government revised its educational policy to require parental consent for children under 16 before schools used their “preferred pronouns.”
Mainstream media bias and opposition were on full display in the coverage of the March, and the New Brunswick decision, making Moe’s decision all the more laudable. While we aren’t always happy with our elected leaders, we can be thankful for Section 33 of the Charter. Without it, a lone judge would be able to overturn the decisions of our legislatures and Parliament.