N.B. makes minor ‘clarifications’ to Policy 713 after being told it violated the Charter



New Brunswick’s provincial government is making minor “clarifications” to Policy 713, just over a week after the province’s child and youth advocate found controversial changes to the policy violates the Charter rights of children.

“I thank the child and youth advocate for his thorough assessment, opinions, and recommendations regarding Policy 713,” Education Minister Bill Hogan said in a release Wednesday.

The province made several revisions to its policy on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools in June, which has since prompted criticism from the LGBTQ+ community, advocacy groups and educators.

One of those changes requires children under 16 to have parental consent before they can officially change their preferred first names or pronouns at school.

Hogan said while the province stands by the changes, “it was clear there are some areas of the policy where further clarity was needed, particularly around some of the definitions used and how students will be supported through major life changes.”

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Click to play video: 'Education council calling on N.B. government to adopt Policy 713 recommendations'

Education council calling on N.B. government to adopt Policy 713 recommendations

In a recent report, child and youth advocate Kelly Lamrock said forcing any non-binary and transgender students to use a name they don’t identify with “is a violation of their protected rights under the Human Rights Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

On Wednesday, the province said it will make the following changes to “bring clarity to the policy”:

  • Definitions of legal, formal and informal names were added to the policy, and the use of names in the classroom and in extra-curricular activities is considered to be formal;
  • Guidance counsellors, psychologists and social workers can use preferred names when supporting students under the age of 16;
  • The section of the policy dealing with self-identification now says that if a student is not able to give consent to talk to their parent about using their preferred name for recordkeeping purposes and daily management, “they will be encouraged, rather than directed, to speak with an appropriate professional for support to develop a plan.”

Premier Blaine Higgs has defended the changes to the LGBTQ+ school policy, arguing that parents have the right to know whether their children are questioning their gender identity. But Higgs’s government has faced strong backlash, including within his own cabinet and from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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Dissenting members of Higgs’ Progressive Conservatives voted with the opposition in mid-June to pass a motion asking Lamrock’s office to review the changes to Policy 713.

More to come.

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