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Parents Bill of Rights Act passes in Legislative Assembly

Daily Leg Update: Emotions run high as legislature votes 40-12 to pass Education (Parents Bill of Rights) Amendment Act, 2023.

REGINA - After a couple of weeks of an emotional and at times tense special sitting, the Education (Parents Bill of Rights) Amendment Act, 2023 is now law.

The bill. which spells out several Education Act amendments including the requirement of parental consent for gender based name changes of students under 16, as well as Notwithstanding Clause provisions, passed third and final reading by a final vote of 40-12. 

There were 39 Sask Party MLAs as well as Sask United MLA Nadine Wilson who voted in favor, with 12 New Democrats voting against. Seven Sask Party MLAs and two New Democrats were not in the house for the vote. 

Following the final vote, Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty entered the Assembly to give Royal assent to the bill, which is now law in Saskatchewan.

As the sitting ended, several individuals in the visitors’ gallery shouted “shame!” and “it’s a travesty." They were applauded by NDP MLAs as they headed out.

Speaking at the media conference afterwards, alongside Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill and Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre, Premier Scott Moe spoke on the passage of the bill.

“Today we passed the Parents Bill of Rights to protect the rights of Saskatchewan parents to be involved in all important decisions regarding their children’s education.”

During the news conference Moe was asked why two Saskatoon MLAs Don Morgan and Gord Wyant — both of them members of the legal profession — were not in the House for the vote.

Moe responded that some were not present for personal reasons or were delivering on their government duties. “Whoever was not present today was not present for good reason,” he said. When asked if he was confident the members on his side who were absent were not there because of opposition to the bill, Moe replied “100 per cent.”

When asked what his message was to people critical of the policies including trans kids and the LGBTQ community, Moe responded that “we need to be involved not only as a government but as a community in supporting all of our children. That’s what this bill at its very core is about, is providing parents the right, not the opportunity, to support their child through the formative years of their life and some very important decisions that our children are facing through those particular years.” 

During his remarks Premier Moe also spoke about the government’s plans for the Speech from the Throne for the new session of the legislature next Wednesday, and hinted at some of the priorities.

Moe hinted that affordability issues would be addressed, particularly in the area of housing. He also pointed to investment attraction and job creation, next steps in the Saskatchewan First Act, and addressing drug addiction, mental health issues, and homelessness. He also pledged further efforts to address health care.

Opposition amendments defeated

In speaking to reporters Beck expressed her disappointment about the final vote.

“We saw another first by this government,” Beck said, “this time to take away the rights of vulnerable children in this province.”

They also spoke about a couple of amendments the Opposition had tried to move in committee the previous evening: one being a parental engagement strategy, the other a “do no harm” clause aimed at protecting vulnerable kids facing a reasonable expectation of harm, and the 

“The amendment that I put forward last night, called the Do No Harm clause, would have allowed this legislation to align with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Matt Love, Education Critic.

“They only thought about it for ten seconds before every member of the government stood and voted no.”

Meanwhile the opposition Sask United Party had a decidedly different reaction to the bill's passage.

“I am pleased the Parents’ Bill of Rights Act has now passed its final reading in the legislature," said Nadine Wilson in a statement.

"This was a necessary first step in bringing parents back into their children’s education. Today marks the first piece of legislation that the Saskatchewan United Party brought about, from petitions, public pressure, and holding this government to account in the people’s legislature. Our party is looking forward to bringing about more common-sense solutions while continuing to hold this government to account.”

There has also been some reaction from outside the Legislature. Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation President Samantha Becotte has issued this statement in response to the bill's passage.

“Today’s passage of Bill 137 places every teacher in Saskatchewan in a difficult position: do they obey the law, thereby potentially placing a child in an extremely dangerous position or ignore it and leave themselves open to legal jeopardy," said Becotte.

“This bill was passed without consultations with parents, school board members, school administrators,mmental health experts or the STF. It is yet another sign that this government isn’t serious about forging cooperative and mutually beneficial relationships in the education sector.”

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