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Sask. human rights commissioner resigns, calls pronoun policy ‘an attack’ on gender-diverse kids

After nine years as a Saskatchewan human rights commissioner, Heather Kuttai resigned from the role Monday in response to the province’s new policy that requires teachers to alert parents if their child wants to use a different gender expression at school.

Heather Kuttai says she stepped down in honour of her transgender son

Woman in ponytail poses for selfie in a shirt that says, 'You will have to go through me.'

Heather Kuttai said she couldn't fall asleep Sunday night without jotting down her thoughts about the Saskatchewan government's new school pronoun policy. A few hours later, those thoughts turned into a resignation letter.

Kuttai — a former paralympian, author and award-winning disability advocate — began working as a human rights commissioner in the province in 2014. On Monday afternoon, that appointment came to an end.

"I can no longer continue. I strongly disagree with the proposed legislation that requires teachers to seek parental permission to change a child's name and/or pronouns when they are at school. This is an attack on the rights of trans, non-binary, and gender-diverse children," Kuttai wrote in her emailed resignation letter addressed to the premier.

"I cannot tell you the depth of my disappointment in the government I have worked for and supported for the last nine years."

Speaking to CBC News hours after stepping down, Kuttai said the move came after several long conversations with her teenage son — someone who's transgender and had a supportive teacher to lean on while he was in school.

"In the end, this is really about two things: my needing to be accountable to my children and my needing to be accountable to the people of this province," she said.

"I felt like there were no other avenues for me to go and that I had said what I needed to say, but it wasn't enough. Maybe my resignation will be louder."

When asked about the resignation at the legislature Monday, Justice Minister Bronwyn Eyre thanked Kuttai for her work and said she was sorry to see her go.

"There are different views on this policy and certainly we see that," Eyre told reporters.

"Not everyone will agree with it, and I'm sorry to hear that she doesn't."

Opposition NDP Leader Carla Beck called Kuttai courageous and commended her for her actions.

"To my knowledge, this is an unprecedented resignation — and one that commissioner Kuttai obviously thought was necessary in the face of the choices of this government," she said.

Beck called on the Saskatchewan government to pause and listen to all of the feedback they're getting on this policy.

"It's time for sober second thought. It's time for them to pull away from their agenda," Beck said.

Kuttai said she hopes her resignation sends a similar message to the premier.

"It's possible to change your mind when you're willing to listen," she said.

"It's not too late."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessie Anton

Journalist

Jessie Anton is a Regina-based journalist with CBC Saskatchewan. She began sharing stories from across the province on television, radio and online in 2016, after getting her start in the rural weekly newspaper world. Email her at jessie.anton@cbc.ca.

With files from Adam Hunter

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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