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'Teachers aren’t going to do this': Reactions to Policy 713 changes spread beyond N.B.

With the immediate political fallout of changes to Policy 713 still unknown, reactions to the review have spread far beyond New Brunswick.

A retired teacher who helped develop the original policy wasn’t sure if a protest by eight Tory MLAs would make any difference to revisions announced Thursday.

“But certainly lawyers are going to make a difference,” said Gail Costello, co-chair of Pride in Education, in an interview on Friday.

Costello said teachers have been in contact with Pride in Education to reject the policy changes – notably the revision that students under 16 would require parental consent in order to be addressed by their preferred name and pronouns at school.

While not stated explicitly in the policy revision, Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Bill Hogan said teachers wouldn’t be able to use the preferred name and pronouns of students under 16 without the permission of parents.

Costello said the changes amount to either forcing students to come out, or intimidating them to stay in the closet.

“Teachers have messaged me and said ‘I’m not doing that,’” said Costello. “Teachers aren’t going to do this. You can’t make teachers harm kids intentionally, because that’s what you’re going to be doing.”

Costello also said the policy’s change directing Trans and non-binary students toward professional counselling was “dangerous” and would put them on a lengthy wait list for psychologists and social workers outside the school system.

“(Hogan) is forcing teachers to mis-gender and mis-name students for what could be months and months, or years at school,” said Costello

In a statement, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the changes to Policy 713 would “make it more dangerous to be a trans or non-binary student in New Brunswick.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referred to the New Brunswick Progressive Conservatives as “far-right political actors… trying to outdo themselves with the types of cruelty and isolation they can inflict on these already vulnerable people.”

“Trans kids need to feel safe, not targeted by politicians,” said Trudeau, in a Toronto speech Thursday night hosted by a 2SLGBTQ+ non-profit group.

Premier Blaine Higgs said Trudeau’s comments were “playing to the audience he was with.”

“It’s unfortunate the Prime Minister wouldn’t look at the big picture and understand that families and parents play a role in the children’s upbringing,” said Higgs, to reporters on Friday. “All we’re doing here is trying to find that balance, at the same time protecting individual child rights.”

The eight Progressive Conservative MLAs who boycotted Thursday’s question wouldn’t speak on-the-record Friday about their protest the day before. The eight MLAs include: Daniel Allain, Andrea Anderson-Mason, Jeff Carr, Arlene Dunn, Jill Green, Trevor Holder, Dorothy Shephard, and Ross Wetmore.

On Friday, Anderson-Mason spoke in the legislature against a Progressive Conservative bill which would limit the authority of district education councils in the Anglophone school sector.

“This is the opposite of what I promised when I ran in 2018,” said Anderson-Mason in a statement Friday.
Anderson-Mason said the bill had been rushed and removed power away from local school communities, calling for the bill to be brought back to the law amendments committee.

“It’s clear that member has another agenda,” said Higgs, in response to Anderson-Mason’s comments about the bill. “She is on her own mission, and we’ll leave it at that.”

Premier Higgs eventually walked away from a reporter’s scrum on Friday afternoon after repeated questions about unity within the Tory caucus. The day before, Higgs mused that dissent within the P.C. caucus on Policy 713 changes could prompt a provincial election.

Liberal leader Susan Holt introduced a motion Friday to remove the changes announced this week to Policy 713.

New Brunswick’s Child and Youth Advocate Kelly Lamrock said he would offer remarks about the policy revisions this Monday.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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