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Moe not fazed by concerns raised about names and pronouns policy

Premier Scott Moe faced more questions on the new school names and pronouns policy and other education issues while at a school opening in Regina.

REGINA - Premier Scott Moe could not get away from questions about the government’s names-and-pronouns policy in schools during a visit to a schools opening in Regina.

Premier Moe, as well as Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill, were alongside Regina Public and Regina Catholic School Division officials marking the grand opening of the Argyle and Ecole St. Pius X elementary schools. The new shared joint-use facility, which hosts 800 pre-kindergarten to Grade 8 students in the Lakeview neighbourhood, will replace two other schools built in the 1950s,

But Moe was only briefly able to speak positively about the province’s $44 million “very very important investment in the city of Regina" to reporters before they started peppering him with questions on the names and pronouns policy in schools, and particularly concerns raised about how it would be implemented. 

One question concerned the reports that teachers and guidance counsellors were struggling with following the new policy because it would also violate their own school’s Code of Ethics. Moe responded by indicating they should look to their managers for answers.

“I would say most certainly they should have discussions with whoever their superiors are about how those policies will be implemented in that particular school division,” Moe replied.

“All school divisions are being asked how those policies are being implemented, how to support children, ultimately, and families by extension. I would go back to what we have said for some period of time now: this is a policy designed to be an inclusive policy, it’s designed to include parents in their children’s education in what is happening in the children’s school. The default position should not be, and I don’t think it is in many cases, but it should not be in any case to exclude parents from being included in their child’s education.”

Moe said there are implementation plans that are being worked on by the school divisions.

“Whether there is a child that needs support in whatever the issue, the challenge might be and that’s identified by the school, there are implementation plans there in place and we would expect that to be the case in this case. If that’s the support of a guidance counsellor or support of some other professional, we would most certainly look to the schools’ implementation plans, the school divisions’ implementation plans, to ensure that is the case, and those will be some of the conversations that I think the Minister and the Ministry will be having in the next number of weeks as we move forward in the next number of weeks and months.”

Education Minister Cockrill said with respect to the policy’s implementation they would be “working with all school divisions to determine that, what that looks like at a school level. We’re in conversations with school divisions all the time on a variety of issues. On this policy specifically, we will continue to work with school divisions on implementation.”

Moe was also asked about the recently released Children’s Advocate report which had concluded the pronoun policy was unconstitutional and going against children’s rights. Moe was asked repeatedly if he was comfortable putting a “discriminatory” policy into law. Instead, the Premier’s responses consistently stated the government would look at the children’s advocate’s report with interest.

Moe said there are “things in the report that we will have a look at and working with our school divisions as they develop their implementation plans on ensuring that the supports are available not just in these situations, but that supports are available when a child might be in a dangerous situation, for example. And many of those protocols are already in place today… We most certainly are always committed to supporting not only the students but supporting the families around those students.”

Moe also pointed to the policy as having broad support. When challenged that the majority of the province “aren’t experts in children’s rights,” Moe countered “the majority are parents though.”

“The majority of the province are parents, and that is who has been reaching out to elected members across this province, most certainly in voicing their opinion. And we’ve been very clear that we have not in any way wavered from our position from the introduction of this policy, that we are going to ensure that the policy will be in place as we move forward.”

New schools already at capacity

Moe was also asked about another challenge facing the Education Ministry and school divisions: keeping up with the growing enrolment numbers in Regina's rapidly growing southeast.

He acknowledged the issue not just in the Lakeview area but also pointing to the growing Harbour Landing area, where a new school was built and is already full.

"This is the challenge that we have across Saskatchewan not just here in Argyle-St. Pius or the community of Lakeview, is our population is growing in Saskatchewan, and with that comes an increase in the student population," Moe said.

"Population growth in the province is unprecedented. We have not grown at the level that we are for the past century, today, but with that comes challenges."

Officials with the school divisions had pointed out the new Argyle and St. Pius joint use school was already full, and this was not a rare occurrence either for their new schools.

"They are often open and are full already," said Sarah Cummings Truszkowski, chair of the Regina Public School Board. "We are trying to do this very quickly, get the school built in the southeast end of the city. We need the schools now, and it's going to take several years before that happens."

That creates issues with a higher pupil-teacher ratio. "It's not ideal," she said.

Premier Moe pointed to the funding that was added as an interim lift to address the additional enrolment numbers and more schools planned or being built, but he acknowledged "more is needed. And the 17 schools that are planned or under construction this year are not the end of the road. There are going to be conversations around additional infrastructure -- not only replacing some of the aging infrastructure, but building for some of the growth we are seeing. And so it is rightly identified as a challenge that this government is continuing to work towards addressing."

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