Scott Moe, Premier of the western Canadian province of Saskatchewan, announced on Thursday that his government will use the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms‘ so-called “notwithstanding clause” to bypass a court ruling that suspended the province’s naming and pronoun policy for students.
In August, Education Minister Dustin Duncan introduced the Parental Inclusion and Consent policy for Saskatchewan schools. Under this policy, schools are required to seek parental consent before changing the preferred name and pronouns of students under the age of 16. Additionally, parents and guardians had the option to decline their children’s participation in the province’s sexual health education curriculum.
On Thursday, Regina Court of King’s Bench Justice Michael Megaw temporarily enjoined the policy, which effectively pauses its implementation pending a review of its constitutionality.
Premier Scott Moe swiftly responded to Megaw’s injunction by announcing his intention to invoke the notwithstanding clause, Section 33 of the Charter. The notwithstanding clause is part of the Canadian Constitution which allows federal, provincial and territorial governments to override or bypass certain Charter rights temporarily.
According to Moe’s statement, he plans to recall the legislature on October 10 to pass legislation that he claims will protect parents’ rights. “Our government is extremely dismayed by the judicial overreach of the court blocking implementation of the Parental Inclusion and Consent policy,” Moe stated. “The default position should never be to keep a child’s information from their parents.”
In response to Moe’s decision, Arif Virani, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, expressed his concerns. “We are aware of the Saskatchewan government’s stated intention to use the Notwithstanding Clause,” Virani said. “A judge agreed that what the government is doing may cause irreparable harm to some of its most vulnerable young people. Just as important, they are acting before a court has had the opportunity to review their proposed policy for its constitutionality. Violating individual rights should not be a decision taken lightly.”