The controversy over New Brunswick’s gender identity policy: Wokeness vs parental rights

By John Sikkema
and André Schutten

“Right now, trans kids in New Brunswick are being told they don’t have the right to be their true selves, that they need to ask permission,” blustered Justin Trudeau on June 8th. The Prime Minister was referring to the Atlantic province’s new Policy 713 on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which the New Brunswick government changed last week.

John Sikkema

John Sikkema

Andre Schutten

Andre Schutten

That policy now says that parental consent is needed for schools to use an under-16 student’s preferred first name rather than legal name for official purposes (class lists, report cards, and so on). Controversy erupted as politicians, journalists, and activists raced to condemn the new policy. The commentary is mostly thoughtless boilerplate: Let kids “be themselves.” Respect their “right to exist.” “Let love be louder than hate.”

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But few seem to be asking who trans-identifying or non-binary kids need to be protected from. Maybe that’s because the answer is: their own parents.

How do you turn a policy change that keeps parents slightly less ignorant about what their kids do at school (or what schools do with their kids) into a story about letting people exist and not hating them? With zero context and plenty of spin.

The changes to Policy 713 are remarkably minor when read in context of the rest of the policy (something that most politicians and activists evidently have not done). In fact, Policy 713 is laden with all the new terminology and ideology from the cutting edge of wokeness.

Most media reports give less or no attention to what remains in Policy 713:

  • A school needs a student’s consent to speak to a parent about a name change for official purposes (see section 6.3.2).
  • Parental consent is not needed to use the child’s preferred name for unofficial purposes, or to use the child’s preferred pronouns (6.3.2)
  • All schools are required to have a designated staff member as an LGBT+ advocate (6.2.1)
  • A student’s participation in a Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) does not require parental consent – in fact, official policy is to keep this secret from parents (6.2.2).
  • Nonsense phrases are smattered throughout, like “sex assigned at birth” or other ideological gibberish like “non-binary gender … is neither exclusively male nor female or is in between or beyond both genders” (3.0). (Male and female are basic, biological – and yes, binary – categories.)
  • Access to facilities, including washrooms, continues to be determined according to gender self-identification rather than biological sex (6.4.1 and 7.3).

Why, as a blanket rule, should GSA membership and activities be kept secret from parents? And what does Policy 713 do to ensure that (biological) females are ensured safety, privacy, and fairness? In reality, New Brunswick Education Minister Bill Hogan has not gone far enough in reforming a policy that has gone full woke and pits public schools against families.

The criticism of the changes to the policy is disturbing in terms of the basic mindset it reveals – that kids should keep secrets from their parents, with help from the state. As a general approach, this is exactly backwards.

Our law, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognizes that parents have primary authority over and responsibility for their children and the right to direct their education. Hogan was right when he said, “It is fundamental in our society to realize that children do not belong to the state. They are their parents’ children. Parents entrust the education system to educate their children. We need to engage with our parents, who, for the majority, are loving, kind, and caring, and we need to ensure that we are doing what is right by them and their children.”

Parents need to understand what this is really about. Should we allow schools to facilitate a child’s “social transition” without giving the child’s parents a clue what’s going on?

Various “progressive” countries in Europe are already grappling with the overwhelming evidence that socially transitioning at a young age is a bad idea, blinding caregivers to comorbidities and often leading to worse dysphoria. Norway, Sweden, Finland, France and the UK are all rethinking and revamping the push toward gender transition.

Activists and school staff who uncritically help a vulnerable child socially transition without involving the child’s parents put that child on a path toward likely medical intervention, including lifelong hormone injections, surgical removal of healthy organs, and all the complications and side effects that go along with it. Hence, social transition is absolutely something parents should know about and have the chance to protect their children from.

No school staff member or “Gender and Sexuality Alliance” leader is as invested in a child’s well-being or knows a child like the child’s parents. Yes, kids, in general, are vulnerable. That’s why their parents need to be involved in their lives. As for their unique vulnerability, trans-identifying kids are disproportionately autistic or have other mental/psychological vulnerabilities. Parents know this about their own kids.

Moms and dads must stop letting politicians and activists pit parental rights against children’s rights. By ensuring parents are more fully informed, we ensure that kids are more fully protected.

John Sikkema and André Schutten are constitutional lawyers with the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada.

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