Henley: The Sask Party has just traded the safety of children in Saskatchewan schools for political cache

CUPE Saskatchewan calls on the Sask Party government and Minister of Education to rescind its policy announcement of August 22, 2023, and engage in meaningful consultation.

The following statement by Judy Henley, President of CUPE Saskatchewan, was released in response to the announcement by the Minister of Education Dustin Duncan.

The Sask Party has just traded the safety of children in Saskatchewan schools for political cache.

The Minister of Education, Dustin Duncan, announced that schools must now get permission from parents if children under the age of 16 try to change their name or preferred pronouns. Minister Duncan likened the outing of vulnerable children to their families to taking a school trip.

The ministry of education is doubling down on this ill-conceived and dangerous initiative by also allowing parents to exempt their children from sexual health education.

Social media has in recent years become rife with anti trans vitriol making the lives of 2SLGBTQ+ youth increasingly dangerous. While governments have a duty to keep its citizens safe, the Sask Party has instead chosen to kowtow to the social media haters and far-right conservatives at the expense of our children’s safety.

The Government of Canada Gender Identity in Schools website identifies “interpersonal violence and lack of support from family and peers” as reasons for approximately one third of gender nonconforming youth attempting suicide.

Children who used to be able to celebrate their identity at school even when their home wasn’t a safe place, will now have no safe spaces.

The Government of Canada website goes on to say that for gender non-conforming children the experience of, “. . . discrimination, stigmatization, harassment, verbal abuse and rejection, the effects of low self-esteem and depression may be severe.”

Unfortunately, this government has chosen not to engage in meaningful consultation with its partners, experts or the 2SLGBTQI+ community before implementing the changed policies.

What is needed is understanding and acceptance for all children. Education is the only reliable path to understanding. Education is clearly what the Sask Party and Minister Duncan lack if they are willing to subject children to rising rates of discrimination, stigmatization, harassment, verbal abuse, rejection, low self-esteem, depression and suicide.

CUPE Saskatchewan calls on the Sask Party government to rescind this policy decision and engage in meaningful consultation.

President, CUPE Saskatchewan