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N.B. premier stands by changes to school LGTBQ policy, says he does not want an election

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is maintaining his support of the changes his government has made to Policy 713, which was designed to protect LGBTQ students, despite rising tensions in the legislature.

'I don't want to go to an election and that isn't my intent to do that,' said Premier Higgs

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs speaks in Fredericton, N.B. on Thursday, February 9, 2023. In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live, Higgs said he is trying to "find a path forward" in regards to managing the changes his government has made to Policy 713.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is maintaining his support of the changes his government has made to Policy 713, which was designed to protect LGBTQ students, despite rising tensions in the legislature.

In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live, Higgs said he is trying to "find a path forward" in regards to managing the changes, but backpedalled on a statement he made on June 8, when he said he was willing to call an election on this issue.

"I don't want to go to an election and that isn't my intent to do that," he said.

The growing controversy in the New Brunswick legislature has stemmed from the government's review of and changes to Policy 713, which established minimum standards for schools to ensure a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for LGBTQ students.

Among the changes sparking debate is that students under 16 now need to get their parents' permission to have teachers and staff use their chosen names and pronouns.

Higgs defended the change, saying information about a child should not be hidden from their parents.

"We're trying to find a path forward to protect the children and to involve the parents when the time is right and have the right people engaged in that process," he said.

WATCH | N.B. premier defends changes to LGBTQ school policy:

N.B. premier defends changes to LGBTQ+ school policy

4 hours ago

Duration 10:08

Rosemary Barton Live speaks with New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs about controversial changes to Policy 713, an education policy meant to protect transgender students, and his comments about gender identity. Plus, a conversation with a N.B. transgender high school student about how the changes will affect LGBTQ+ youth.

The threat of an election on this issue was brought up by Higgs after he faced a rebellion from several of his top cabinet ministers in response to the policy review.

Six ministers and two backbench MLAs refused to attend the June 8 morning sitting of the legislature "as a way to express our extreme disappointment in a lack of process and transparency," they said in a statement.

Approach to review drives minister resignation

Since then, one of the eight ministers has resigned from Higgs' cabinet.

On Thursday, after hearing Higgs speak in the legislature about his conviction that gender dysphoria has become "trendy," and how he believes increased acceptance of it is hurting kids and excluding parents, former cabinet minister Dorothy Shephard got up and left the chamber.

In an interview on Power & Politics, Shephard said her departure was a "long time coming" and that she has had concerns about the government's approach to certain topics, like Policy 713.

WATCH | N.B. minister resigns over controversial changes to LGBTQ policy:

N.B minister resigns over controversial changes to LGBTQ policy in schools

2 days ago

Duration 8:44

As New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs spoke in the legislature Thursday about his conviction that gender dysphoria has become 'trendy' and increased acceptance of it is hurting kids and excluding parents, cabinet minister Dorothy Shephard got up and left the chamber. She later resigned from her position as social development minister.

"I just decided that it was time," she said. "I didn't feel I could accomplish anything more in this cabinet with this premier."

Shephard is critical of Higgs' leadership style, saying it is "difficult" and that he does not "form relationships easily."

Shephard is the third minister to resign from cabinet, the other two being former education minister Dominic Cardy, who resigned in October 2022 and now sits as an independent, and former deputy premier Robert Gauvin, who resigned in February 2020 and now sits as a Liberal.

In response to Shephard's criticism, Higgs said that he recognizes that decisions made in the legislature will not all be unanimous, but the majority of caucus agreed they needed to "find a path forward" on Policy 713.

"If our process is that every time there is a tough issue and we don't agree with where the majority of caucus had gone to, walking away is not the solution," he said.

Trans teen concerned about policy change

Alex Harris, a transgender high school student in New Brunswick, said in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live that he is most concerned about the change made to the self-identification clause in the policy.

Harris, who is now over the age of 16, came out before the policy change. At the time, his teachers were able to use his preferred name and pronouns at school and then use his old information when talking to his parents.

"It actually made it easier for me to come out to my parents because I knew I had a safe space at school even if that didn't go well," he said.

When Harris did come out to his parents he said it went well, but he said he knows people who may not have the same experience. He said he has "tons" of friends who came out at school before the changes to Policy 713 and now have to ask their parents for permission to have their teachers use their chosen name or pronouns.

"That is terrifying to them because their parents would not be safe to come out to," said Harris.

Part of the change to the self-identification clause in the policy is that if students are fearful or object to informing their parents of their change in preferred name and pronouns, they can work with guidance counsellors or school social workers and psychologists to get to a place where they feel comfortable telling them.

Harris said this development is "troubling."

"For most people who are concerned about this policy, it's not that they need to get to a place where they can talk to their parents, it's that their parents aren't at a place where they will be accepting of them being trans," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Mundie

CBC Journalist

Jessica Mundie is a journalist with CBC News in Ottawa. She was previously the Michelle Lang Fellow at the National Post. Reach her by email jessica.mundie@cbc.ca and on Twitter @jessicamundiee.

    With files from Jacques Poitras and Hadeel Ibrahim

    *****
    Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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