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Federal minister LeBlanc calls changes to N.B.'s LGBTQ2S+ school policy a 'mistake'

Infrastructure and Communities Minister and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc rises during Question Period, in Ottawa, Wednesday, June 14, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld). Infrastructure and Communities Minister and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc rises during Question Period, in Ottawa, Wednesday, June 14, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld).
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FREDERICTON -

The recent changes to New Brunswick's policy on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools were a mistake, a federal minister said Wednesday, a day after Premier Blaine Higgs was forced to shuffle his cabinet over the issue.

The reformed Policy 713, which makes it no longer mandatory for teachers to use preferred names or pronouns for transgender and nonbinary students under 16, complicates things for young families, Infrastructure Minister Dominic LeBlanc said.

"It's clearly been a divisive effort by the province," he told reporters in Fredericton, not long after making a funding announcement, alongside Higgs, for the University of New Brunswick's law faculty building.

"And we don't think it's particularly constructive to have a prolonged and divisive debate in the legislature about this. It certainly doesn't appear to have been a great success for the Higgs government either."

Higgs has been dealing with the consequences to the policy changes since they were announced in early June. Two cabinet ministers resigned this month, citing the premier's leadership style and saying the changes to Policy 713 were the last straw. After the two resignations, the premier shuffled his cabinet Tuesday, bouncing out two more ministers who had criticized his leadership.

As well, six members of his government voted with the Opposition earlier in June to force a motion through the legislature asking the province's child and youth advocate to review the changes made to the policy.

LeBlanc is not the first minister to wade into the uproar. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a Toronto crowd earlier this month, "trans kids need to feel safe, not targeted by politicians."

"We're seeing that angry, hateful rhetoric rise on our continent, particularly targeting trans people," Trudeau said at a fundraiser for the LGBTQ charity Rainbow Railroad.

"Far-right political actors are trying to outdo themselves with the types of cruelty and isolation they can inflict on these already vulnerable people. 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."

Meanwhile, federal Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre wasn't as critical. He told reporters earlier this week in Moncton, N.B., that the prime minister had no business airing his thoughts on a provincial policy.

"I know that Justin Trudeau has butted into that," the official Opposition leader said Monday. "The prime minister has no business in decisions that should rest with provinces and parents."

"So my message to Justin Trudeau is butt out and let provinces run schools and let parents raise kids."

LeBlanc, in turn, had a message for Poilievre, saying provinces are never shy to offer suggestions to Ottawa, often in areas of federal jurisdiction.

"With provinces, it's always 13 against one, the provinces and territories," he said.

"To claim respect of human rights, respect of diversity, is a uniquely provincial jurisdiction is not very sincere either."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2023.

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