I don’t know how much/little others have been following along with the New Brunswick’s Policy 713 shitshow turned international controversy, especially since proper news links can no longer be shared online. This text might be way too much information for some, and yet way not enough for others. Also, it might make me lose a few Facebook friends but I’m okay with that risk because today is not a day that I can comfortably be quiet about this, today is a day to be LOUD.
A tiny summary of the massive background to give context follows. This is not an opinion, all of this verifiable by reading published news articles and the results of a public Right to Information Request for yourself.
Following extensive consultation with medical and mental health professionals, education specialists, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ advocacy groups, in 2020, Policy 713 was implemented by the Higgs government. In March 2021, Premier Higgs sent Bill Hogan an email with sections of the policy pertaining to respecting student’s chosen pronouns and gender identity saying: “have you seen this??”
It is important to note that at that time, Hogan was the Minister for Public Safety. Nothing to do with education. It wasn’t until after this that Dominic Cardy dissented from Higgs and was replaced by Hogan as the Minister of Education.
Hogan later initiated the “review” of the policy but falsified the reasons for said review, citing complaints that were later proven to be nonexistent.
Changes were implemented that removed the rights of a student to make their own decisions regarding gender pronouns and identity in an unofficial (i.e. social) capacity, requiring parental consent.
The appointed Child and Youth Advocate, Kelly Lamrock, completed an extensive review of the changes in consultation with various experts and determined the changes to be detrimental to transgender and nonbinary youths, and even to those just questioning. But, the Premier is digging his heels in and refusing to back down, citing “parental rights,” in conjunction with support and funding from ultra conservative religious groups.
The province is now facing an active lawsuit over the human rights of the impacted children, and this controversy has spread across the country with a mountain of misinformation and exaggerated, ill-informed propaganda suggesting cult indoctrination, teachers encouraging devious sexual secrets, medical and surgical procedures, etc.
All of this has built up to a “1 million march for children” protest taking place in various cities across the country September 20. It was organized by the same folks who were involved in the infamous “freedom convoy” who were/are against vaccine requirements.
The organizers say that the protest is purely to advocate for parental rights (at the cost of children’s rights I might add), and that they are not against 2SPLGBTQIA+, but…
Their signage and slogans continue to include bigoted propaganda that are either completely false, misleading, or suggesting that transgendered people just don’t exist or maybe that they can’t exist until they’re adults somehow? I’m not clear on what the message is there.
Their signs and chants say that teachers are “grooming,” indoctrinating, etc. There is the belief that somehow acknowledging existence makes something contagious, that learning about someone can somehow makes you into them, instead of maybe just more aware and tolerant of them.
One of those protests was planned for Fredericton. You would think that our Premier, who recently announced he’s DEFINITELY running for re-election, would recognize that this is an opportunity to maybe just stay in the background and let the minions do his minioning, but NOPE….nope.
Higgs, along with his trusty sidekick Hogan, were there smiling and shaking hands with the protesters. The signs were quite something. One, visible in a circulated picture, says “NO GROOMING NO PORN NO SECRETS,” another said “stop normalezing sex and nudity,” complete with spelling errors.
This is all because of a policy designed to give trans kids a safe, neutral bathroom and to choose their own social identity. Counter protesters (i.e. those supporting the debated rights of 2SPLGBTQIA+ children as non property) were thankfully out in full force as well, across the street, but were not acknowledged by the Premier.
This is the kind of culture that our provincial government is creating and perpetuating.
Instead of focusing on creating more safe spaces for everyone, we’re dividing people over something as basic as someone’s right to their own identity without parental permission.
By attending this protest and visibly supporting that “side,” Higgs is sending a very clear message that anyone (or, at least any student age person) who doesn’t conform to his normative gender views shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else. He’s perpetuating the wildly inappropriate and inaccurate beliefs instead of focusing on the actual issue(s) and listening to experts.
My heart hurts for the message being sent to so many people who just want to be themselves, on their own terms. That said, I am grateful for those like the City of Fredericton and Mayor Kate, as well as our provincial opposition members, who continue to show love and support. You give hope.
From Fredericton, Kathy Hennessy originally wrote this post on Facebook on Sept. 20, 2023. She occasionally blogs at Adulting is Hard.