Canadians came out in force to rally behind trans youth and protest a policy which would see youngsters forcefully outed to their parents.
Hundreds of people, including trans kids and their supportive families, gathered in the Saskatchewan cities of Saskatoon, Regina and Lloydminster in opposition to Bill 137, also known as the Parent’s Bill of Rights.
The legislation, which became law last week, was introduced by Saskatchewan Party education minister Jeremy Cockrill last week and outlines a number of rights parents have regarding their children’s education, including access to the pupil’s school file and being able to see what sexual-health content is being taught.
Controversially, the bill also contains a policy stating parental consent must be given for a pupil to use “their preferred name, gender identity, and/or gender expression” at school.
Speaking with the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, rally co-organizer Blake Tait said: “Children deserve a space where they feel safe, included and affirmed.
“We know this will not always be their homes: Give children their schools.”
Tait told the newspaper he started his social transition when he was 14, by using a new name, pronouns and clothes at school.
Now 23, he said whilst the reaction of his immediate family was “lovely” his extended family’s response was less positive and left him “trapped in a hard place”.
“With the new legislation, more students will face this — and worse — with no choice in the matter,” Tait explained.
“No opportunity to go at their own pace […] Youth are going back into the closet, and youth are terrified for the lives of their friends.”
“I thought we were in a progressive, safe community and province,” said Roberta Cain, whose son Silas is 15.
Cain’s son told the newspaper being “forced to come out can be so traumatizing and life-threatening” and so “having a safe place to experiment is such an important thing”.
“I am so hated for just existing and being who I am. So many younger kids who are finding out who they are and want to have a safe space are at such a risk because some people just don’t like us,” Silas said.
The policy will create “very real harms”
During the protest, Saskatoon city councillor Mairin Loewen addressed the crowd, telling them: “Kids are full humans. They’re not partial humans. They have the same rights as any other human, and those rights cannot be trumped or overridden by the political whims and desires of adults.”
She added there is “too much at stake” and “all need this sense of safety and freedom in order to be ourselves and to become ourselves”.
Loewen’s speech, quoted by LGBTQ Nation, continued: “The evidence is clear.
“This legislation is harmful. Expert after expert has been emerging to identify the risks of this legislation, and the very real harms it will create.”
The bill was passed after lawmakers involved section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a clause which gives provincial legislatures the ability to override parts of the charter for a period of five years.
In response to this move, human rights commissioner Heather Kuttai – who has a trans son – sent a letter to premier Scott Moe tending her immediate resignation.
“A child’s rights must always take precedence over a parent’s obligations and responsibilities. My first concern is that this [bill] is going to hurt kids,” Kuttai wrote, saying the policy is something she “cannot be a part of”.
Adding she does not want to be “associated with a provincial government that takes away the rights of children, especially vulnerable children”.