THE BATTLEFORDS — The surge of protests flaring across Sask. in light of recent changes from the Ministry of Education, requiring schools to inform parents if a student under the age of 16 changes their pronouns, have spread to the Battlefords.
On Sunday, nearly 100 protesters gathered in front of the recently appointed Minister of Education, Jeremy Cockrill's office (MLA for the Battlefords) in North Battleford, to voice their displeasure with the government's recent policy changes.
"We're not happy with the new policy around outing kids at school, surrounding pronouns of choice, names of choice and the sex education piece is a problem as well," said Kelly Waters, one of the organizers of the protest said.
Waters told the News-Optimist that it's meaningful for kids to be able to identify with a chosen name or pronoun, and harm could be done to children by not honouring what she calls an affirming action.
She added that not all youth feel safe expressing themselves openly at home, and that school, as a safe place, shouldn't be in jeopardy.
"It's absolutely wrong, it's backwards, it's in the face of all the progress we've made over the last five-ten years on this front."
Dustin Duncan, the former Education Minister announced the change on Aug. 22, with the Sask. Government now facing a lawsuit from the University of Regina's Pride organization.
Another protester in North Battleford noted that she believes the government is putting children and youth at risk by pandering to the far right after their recent byelection losses on Aug. 10.
"This is letting the Sask Party Government know that we are not going to stand for this, that this is archaic, we have fought for this in the past for people to be who they are, their human rights, and they're trying to take those away from children and youth in school," Dr. Fran Forsberg said, at points, horns blared in support as she spoke.
"He (Cockrill) can double down as much as he wants, I'm going to triple down to stop it. I mean, the Sask Party is using our tax dollars to fight a legal challenge to this ... I have filed a human rights complaint as well, and I know there's at-least 100 other parents that are going to be joining that human rights complaint," she said.
"We're not going to allow it. Bottom line, we're not going to allow it."
As noted by the Canadian Press covering the recent lawsuit filed against the Sask. Government, all of the province’s 27 school divisions are named as respondents.
At the time of his appointment as Minister of Education, Cockrill told the media that there was wide support for the policy change requiring parental consent, saying he had heard about the issue when visiting all 61 constituencies as reported by John Carins with SASKTODAY.ca
“Why are we getting national attention on this policy? Well, it’s because there’s broad support across the country for this policy around parental rights and inclusion,” Cockrill responded.
"We welcome that, because again, as a Government we believe that parents should be at the centre in education."
At the time of publication, Cockrill's office has not responded to a request for comment.