Interim Staff:

New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs announced he would review Policy 713, the province’s public school Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy, arguing that the current policy denies parents their right to know if their child wants to change genders.

The current policy, implemented by the Ministry of Education in 2020, states, “Transgender or non-binary students under the age of 16 will require parental consent in order for their preferred first name to be officially used for recordkeeping purposes and daily management (EECD, school district, and school software applications, report cards, class lists, etc.).” Policy 713 continues, “If it is not possible to obtain parental consent for the use of the preferred first name, a plan will be put in place to support the student in managing the use of the preferred name in the learning environment.”

The stated aim of Policy 713 is to “create a safe, welcoming, inclusive, and affirming school environment for all students, families, and allies who identify or are perceived as LGBTQI2S+.” The policy allows students to use their preferred name and pronouns, requires teachers to respect the students’ decisions, forms gender and sexuality alliance groups in schools, and mandates that all schools have at least one gender-neutral washroom.

On May 17, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs defended his decision to review the policy, saying that for a child’s wish to change genders to be “purposefully hidden from the parents, that’s a problem.” Currently, children must give consent before schools inform parents of an intention to change their gender. Higgs told reporters, “To suggest that it’s okay that parents don’t need to know — just stop and think about that question for a moment.”

The New Brunswick premier also condemned drag shows for children after he was asked by a reporter about his views. “Are we asking: Should kids in elementary school and kindergarten be exposed to drag queen reading time? Is that what you’re asking? Because, no, I don’t think they should be at that age.”

Higgs explained, “We’re teaching kids to develop and grow, and they need to be making decisions as they get older and they get wiser,” he said. “Are we trying to teach tolerance and acceptance, or are we trying to teach promotion?”

Education Minister Bill Hogan said that “hundreds” of parents and educators have complained about Policy 713. Hogan said the Higgs government wants to re-examine when the issue of gender identity is introduced in the classroom. “I want to ensure that … when we’re teaching our curricula, that parents are informed and, you know, that we’re not going places where children are not developmentally ready to be.”

More broadly, Hogan questioned the age-appropriateness of the province’s sex education curriculum. He told reporters, “We want to have a conversation with New Brunswickers so we can hear their views, address misconceptions and concerns, and provide the very best educational environment for all our students.” He said education ministers of other provinces are also re-examining these issues, but did not indicate which ones.

In the next Question Period in the provincial assembly, Liberal Leader Susan Holt accused the government of trying to roll back sex education and rights to students who identify as homosexual or transgender. Hogan denied the charge, saying they are attempting to determine the “scope and sequence” of parts of the curriculum.