Blaine Higgs hates trans kids more than he loves his own

 Blaine Higgs’ efforts to persecute trans youth in his province is receiving wide condemnation, even from members of his own cabinet.
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Objectively, there’s nothing controversial about Policy 713’s mission statement — to ensure a safe educational environment for 2SLGBTQIA+ students in New Brunswick public schools.

The policy required school staff to respect the pronouns and chosen names of students, made it mandatory for each school to have at least one gender-neutral washroom and let students join Gender-Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) or similar extracurricular activities without permission from parents.

Sounds pretty basic, right?

Last month, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development began a review of the policy after allegedly receiving “hundreds of complaints” and a swath of concerns from parents and teachers.

But the department’s basis has proven to be completely unfounded, bringing into question the legitimacy of the review itself.

In fact, no written complaints about the policy were reported to the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, according to an investigation by New Brunswick Child, Youth, and Seniors’ Advocate Kelly Lamrock.

Of the four emails provided to Lamrock, one was from the parent of a trans child asking for the policy to be strengthened to protect students from anti-2SLGBTQIA+ harassment.

No complaints were reported either to the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association about trans athletes, despite Higgs explicitly expressing concerns about the fairness of trans players in hockey.

Former Minister of Education Dominic Cardy told the Canadian Press in a May 10 article that Higgs’ concerns were “odd, vague and seemed driven by an overall feeling of unease,” adding that the premier had trouble differentiating sex education curriculums with the province’s policy on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The idea that parents are being prevented from knowing “the truth” about their child is not only disingenuous — it reinforces a dangerous and all-too-common trope that sexual orientation and gender identity is centered around the act of deception.

A closer look at Policy 713 changes made by Higgs and his government

New Brunswick’s health-care system is in crisis, homelessness rates are rising, and yet, Higgs is focused more on targeting some of the most vulnerable in our society than making sure there’s a doctor in the ER when you have an emergency.

The updated policy, as The New York Times’ Ian Austen noted, will allow dead-naming, the act of referring to an individual by their given name rather than their chosen name — a name they no longer use — in classrooms.

It’s unclear how the policy will impact the ability of teachers to intervene in bullying against trans students, but it is apparent that educators are being muzzled in their ability to support 2SLGBTQIA+ students.

The new Policy 713 will require parental consent for trans or non-binary students under the age of 16 to have their chosen name used in classrooms. 

But that requirement could put an already vulnerable community at even further risk, as trans and non-binary youth disproportionately experience homelessness.

A 2022 report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) found that nearly one out of every three unhoused youth in Canada is 2SLGBTQIA+. 

Additionally, trans and gender non-conforming people in Canada are also seven times more likely to suffer from substance use disorders, five times more likely to attempt suicide, and twice as likely to experience homelessness.

The policy states that if consent cannot be obtained from parents, the student will be forced to meet with a school social worker or psychologist in order to develop a plan “to speak with their parents if and when they are ready to do so.” This stipulation baselessly assumes that students are not asking for consent, rather than parents being unwilling to provide it.

Vaguely, if obtaining parental consent could “cause harm to the student,” whether the threat is physical or mental, the student will be “directed to the appropriate school professional for support.” There is no mention of school staff being required to alert child protective services should such a threat be posed to the youth.

Another change to Policy 713 removed any mention of gender identity from a sports policy that sets basic standards for safety and respect in athletics.

Additionally, wording was adjusted to a section on change rooms, clarifying that “private” universal changing areas will be available in public schools.

A leadership review and possible human rights lawsuit

The review has spurred widespread backlash, ranging from protests to the resignation of two cabinet ministers and calls for the premier to step down.

Despite the controversy, Higgs has made clear he has no plans to go anywhere, and changes to Policy 713 will began taking effect on July 1.

While provinces are responsible for setting their own educational standards, the move has garnered criticism from the federal level — with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking out against it earlier this month.

“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 at the time. “Well, trans kids need to feel safe and not targeted by politicians. We have to stand against this.”

Naturally, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre felt the need to chime in. He did not speak out in support of 2SLGBTQIA+ rights. Instead, he used a recent visit to Moncton, N.B., to chastise Trudeau.

“The Prime Minister has no business in decisions that should rest with provinces and parents,” he said earlier this week. So my message to Justin Trudeau is butt out and let provinces run schools and let parents raise kids.”

The opposition to the changes to Policy 713 may also face a legal challenge from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

Harini Sivalingam, a lawyer and director of the Equity Program at the CCLA, spoke Thursday at the province’s Legislative Assembly, calling the ‘review’ of Policy 713 “biased and politically-motivated,” and noted it is “unlawful and unconstitutional and should not stand.”

“Rather than defend the rights of New Brunswick children, the premier announced he would meddle with the very policies put in place to protect the rights of trans and non-binary children,” Sivalingam said. “He capitulated to extremists.”

Sivalingam accused Higgs of forgetting that “New Brunswick is not Florida,” adding that the original policy in no way prevented “loving and supportive parents” from receiving information about their children.

“We will not hesitate from using every legal avenue to fight for your rights and freedoms,” she said. “Pride month may be ending but our attention will not waver.”

Higgs, who had plenty to say about drag queens and conversion therapy over the past two months, has been a bit more tight-lipped about the prospect of a leadership review.

On Thursday, 26 dissenting P.C. riding presidents submitted letters calling for such a review to take place, noting a “pattern of autocratic leadership” during Higgs’ time as premier.

The move comes after six members of the Higgs government broke with the majority to pass an Opposition motion for the province’s child and youth advocate to review the latest changes to Policy 713.

“As a father and grandfather, I don’t think there is anything more important than the role and responsibility of a parent in raising their children,” Higgs said in a June 22 tweet. But the premier’s personal mission to remove agency from youth under the guise of parental rights sends a much different message: Higgs hates trans kids more than he loves his own.

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