Children with dead names would be allowed under school policy

For nearly two years, the province of New Brunswick had a policy that required teachers to use students’ preferred names and genders. But under a new policy introduced by provincial leader, Premier Blaine Higgs, teachers must obtain parental permission if the child is under 16.

The new policy, which does not require legislative approval, has created a political storm that has the potential to topple his government.

Backlash grew against him during a week in which Canada was outraged by a mother’s allegation that a man questioned the gender of his 9-year-old daughter during a shot put competition in Kelowna, Columbia British. As my colleague Dan Bilefsky reported, the man denied approaching the girl or her mother, saying castanets, a local online news site, which only asked an official if the event was mixed.

[Read: Man Who Questioned 9-Year-Old Athlete’s Gender Spurs Outrage]

Criticisms and condemnations of Higgs’ policy came quickly from LGBTQ activists, political opponents, teachers, former civil servants and the official who serves as defender of children and young people of the province. Higgs’ move has also sparked open revolt within his Progressive Conservative caucus.

Before I arrived in New Brunswick earlier this week to report an unrelated story, six members of the Progressive Conservative caucus, including two members of Mr. Higgs’ cabinet, publicly challenged the premier.

Then, on Thursday, the internal party revolt widened. A third member of Mr. Higgs’ cabinet has left his post mainly because of the problem.

With the support of members of Higgs’ Conservative caucus, the lawmaker also managed to pass a motion asking the government to have Kelly Lamrock, an advocate for children and young people, review the premier’s plan, effectively reprimanding him.

Mr Lamrock called the policy “cheap and inadvertently discriminatory”. Students who do not want their parents consulted will be referred to mental health workers, a move that some say could become a form of conversion therapy, which is illegal in Canada.

The province’s education minister said the government had received hundreds of complaints about the policy. But when Mr. Lamrock asked for copies, he said they had been given to him three emails sent in two and a half years. None of them, he said, addressed the specific policy and some of them contained homophobic comments.

Bill Hogan, provincial education minister, said the government was being guided in part by a brief presented last month by five national organizations involved in gender issues. They include Canadian Gender Report based in Ontario, which describes itself in contrast to “children’s medical transition, the introduction of gender identity teaching in our schools, and the changing legal landscape that replaces biological sex with the subjective notion of gender identity.”

In the midst of the political storm he has created, Mr. Higgs remains defiant.

After telling lawmakers that gender dysphoria has become “popular and trendy,” Higgs said the current policy, which her government will replace later this month, creates “an erosion of the family’s role in education some children .”

Exactly why politics has become a concern for Mr. Higgs over the past couple of years isn’t entirely clear. During debate on the motion he lost, Mr Higgs said it “slipped through the system” in 2020 and only gained wider attention as people started hearing about the days of drag stories in libraries . But a leader of the group that helped develop the 2020 policy that Mr Higgs is withdrawing said the group had been working with the government on the policy for about a decade.

Mr Higgs said he would heed the lawmaker’s motion and allow Mr Lamrock to conduct a review of his policy. The review is scheduled for the end of August. But he hasn’t pledged to adopt any of his recommendations. He has also indicated that he is ready to fight an election for politics despite dissent from the caucus.

I spoke to Gail Costello, a recently retired teacher who is co-chair of Pride in Education, a group of teachers that was instrumental in introducing the soon-to-be-repealed 713 Policy, and various other identity-related schools of political gender. She said she believed Mr. Higgs had a much larger agenda.

“If you follow the 713 policy, then you can follow the curriculum,” Ms. Costello said. “If you can follow the curriculum, then can you also follow the books in schools that discuss those parts of the curriculum? You can see the writing on the wall. That’s why it’s important to stop it right now.

Ms Costello said she believed the premier’s plan would eventually be rejected by a court and allow her to move on to her new retirement passion: pickleball.

“This is another bump in the road,” he said. “I’m 100% sure this won’t hold up, changes will be made and the babies will be fine in September.”

  • My colleague Norimitsu Onishi and Renaud Philippe, a Montreal-based photographer, spent three days with 109 French firefighters battling wildfires in northern Quebec. Their commander told them that if people in the south were wondering “why is there smoke there, it’s because the fires here are unstoppable.”

  • In their report on the car tragedy that claimed at least 15 lives in Manitoba, Kim Wheeler and Dan Bilefsky report that the victims, most of whom were from Dauphin, were just 10 minutes from their destination, a casino, when their bus and a semi-trailer truck collided. Another 10 people were injured.

  • The company behind the Instant Pot, an electronically controlled device that pressure cooks and slow cooks food — and was invented in Ottawa by a former Nortel engineer — has filed for bankruptcy protection.

  • In their sixth season, the Vegas Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup.


Born in Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has written about Canada for the New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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