Both opposition parties are calling on Premier Blaine Higgs to apologize to New Brunswick teachers after telling reporters that children are being taught to lie in the province’s education system.
“Teachers need to hear you acknowledge that you respect their work and that you don’t believe that they are teaching children to lie in New Brunswick. You are creating mistrust between parents and teachers and you’re undermining the education system,” Liberal Leader Susan Holt said during question period Wednesday.
On Sept. 20, Higgs attended the 1MillionMarch4Children outside the legislature, speaking with protesters calling for LGBTQ2 subjects and themes to be eliminated from the classroom. While speaking with reporters that day, he said the old version of the province’s school gender identity policy taught children to lie to their parents.
“Parents didn’t know. Parents did not know that in the education system, children were being taught to lie to their parents. They didn’t know and now they do,” he said.
“I don’t believe that our educational system should be teaching kids to be untruthful with their parents.”
The old version of Policy 713 made it mandatory for schools to respect the chosen name and pronouns of children under 16, even if they weren’t comfortable with the school informing their parents of the choice. The new version, which was released in June, requires parental consent for children under 16 to use a name or pronoun that isn’t consistent with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Higgs was asked repeatedly by reporters on Wednesday if he stands by his comments that children are being taught to lie in school, but wouldn’t directly answer the question.
“My position and my statement is that if we have a policy that is basically saying it is OK to hide information from parents, should a teacher be put in that position, and I think it’s pretty clear that no they should not,” he said.
Experts and LGBTQ2 groups have been highly critical of the changes, saying they will keep children in the closet or potentially force queer kids to come out in homes where it might not be safe to do so. The province’s child and youth advocate has said the revised policy potentially violates the Charter and the province’s Human Rights Act. The policy is also subject to a legal challenge by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Green Leader David Coon introduced a motion on Wednesday calling on the premier to apologize for his claim that children are being taught to lie. He says he’s not surprised that the premier doesn’t think he needs to apologize, since he had already declined when Coon personally asked him to in September.
“Teachers, as many teachers told me, have never felt so disrespected in their teaching careers,” he said.
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