‘Trans kids need to feel safe’: Trudeau reacts to Policy 713 revisions

TORONTO — Revisions to an education policy that was implemented to ensure the safety of LGBTQ students in New Brunswick public schools have received opposition from the federal government.

Education Minister Bill Hogan announced changes Thursday to three sections of Policy 713 that are expected to take effect July 1. Established in 2020, Policy 713 sets minimum requirements for making schools safe and inclusive for LGBTQ students.

Related: Hogan introduces Policy 713 changes; members react

It had been under review since late April after the province claimed to receive hundreds of complaints about the policy.

One of the changes announced on Thursday requires teachers to seek parental consent to address transgender and non-binary students younger than 16 by their preferred name or pronouns.

“If it is not in the best interest of the child or could cause harm to the student (physical or mental threat), the student will be directed to the appropriate school professional for support,” the revised policy reads.

Related: Province faces backlash over sexual orientation, gender identity policy review

Related: We never considered removing Policy 713: Higgs

Premier Blaine Higgs has been facing intense backlash from New Brunswickers because of the review, including from members of his cabinet.

Eight members, including Dorothy Shephard, Trevor Holder and Arlene Dunn, refrained from routine business in the legislature Wednesday “to express our extreme disappointment in a lack of process and transparency.”

Related: Holt ‘concerned and infuriated’ by Policy 713 review

Meanwhile, Liberal leader Susan Holt previously said she was growing “increasingly concerned and infuriated” by the review and that comments made by Higgs and Hogan were “ignorant, uninformed and disrespectful.”

“They have admitted to not understanding what they are talking about,” she said last week.

“This review should never have happened; the policy needs to be upheld and strengthened … all New Brunswickers deserve to feel safe being who [they] are, especially our kids.”

Related: Group demands N.B. halt gender identity policy review

Similar criticisms continued on the federal level Friday when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took aim against what he calls “far-right political actors.”

“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,” he said Thursday during a Rainbow Railroad event in Toronto.

“Trans kids need to feel safe, not targeted by politicians … we have to stand up for the freedoms we believe in and continue our work of letting love be louder than hate.”

Higgs responded to the prime minister and Holt on Saturday in an online statement.

“Once again Justin Trudeau shows he does not support the role of parents in guiding their children’s future,” he said on Twitter.

“Susan Holt and Justin Trudeau do not believe that parents need to be involved in such critical discussions as gender identity, even in elementary aged children as young as four years old.”

Higgs said the province will have safe learning environments and better mental health supports “while still respecting the role of the parent.”

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