New Brunswick education minister Bill Hogan said a review of a policy designed to protect LGBTQ2 youth in schools would include consultation with a variety of stakeholders, but some groups are wondering why they have yet to receive a call.
The review of Policy 713, which sets minimum inclusion standards for LGBTQ2 students in the province’s school system, was launched a month ago and Hogan told reporters on Wednesday that the results will be announced in two weeks. Speaking to reporters, Hogan said the province plans to include a variety of groups in consultations.
“We’re going to talk to our children, we’re going to talk to our advocates, we’re going to talk to our experts and we’re going to look at Policy 713 and see what things we need to look at, he said.
“What is the role of parents in our public education system? I think that’s a real important question.”
With so little time until the review is complete, some organizations are wondering why they haven’t received a call.
Pride in Education (PiE) is a provincial committee of teachers working to support LGBTQ2 inclusion. PiE co-chair Gail Costello says the group was heavily consulted when the policy was first being created, but has yet to hear from the province about contributing to the review.
“Not only are some of the members of our board queer, we are working with these kids, we are running Gay/Straight Alliances, we are in the school system and we see daily what’s working and what’s not working,” she said.
“You can’t make a policy like this without consulting the 2SLGBTQI+ community. It’s imperative.
Chroma NB, another LGBTQ2 advocacy group confirmed that they have not been contacted by the province to be a part of consultations. Nor has Fredericton Pride or Imprint Youth, a Fredericton based association that looks to create safe spaces for queer youth.
The department of education did not provide a list of groups being consulted as part of the review when asked.
Hogan was not in the legislature on Thursday and premier Blaine Higgs was not made available to speak to reporters.
Liberal leader Susan Holt says that the review appears to be lacking the same rigor as the process that created the policy in the first place.
“Good policy you don’t develop in two or three weeks. This policy took 10 years of development across three governments with information and experts who know kids and education,” she said.
“To consider making a change to it in two or three weeks and no inclusion of the public or community members who have expertise in this area is not how we should be making policy in New Brunswick.”
Green leader David Coon says the apparent lack of consultation can likely be traced back to one person.
“The premier seems to have a one-track mind on this and he’s going to pursue that come hell or high water,” he said.
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Coon said the fact the government didn’t offer anyone to speak to reporters about the review on Thursday was an indication that support inside the PC caucus was wanted, adding that some government MLAs appeared to be “sitting on their hands” and not clapping while the premier faced questions on the subject during the question period.
Higgs has taken issue with a piece of the policy that allows children under 16 to informally change their name or pronouns in the learning environment without parental consent. He says that parents should be informed of what their kids are doing at school, even if a student doesn’t feel comfortable coming out to their parents.
“Parents still want to take control and have responsibility for their kids, not the state and not the province,” Higgs said during Tuesday’s question period.
Tory MLA Andrea Anderson Mason and cabinet minister Arlene Dunn both told Global News on Wednesday that they believe the safety and protection of children should be prioritized above all else.
Dunn said that the review must include input from the LGBTQ2 community.
“I think it’s one of the things the government needs to do better at, all governments across Canada, is sometimes we make policy decisions without actually talking to people who live it and breathe it every single day and I think it’s important for us to take those views into consideration,” she said.
“These kids are number one, their safety is number one, their health is number one and we can’t take away any rights that they have already and we’ve got to make sure that they’re safe and protected, period.”
Earlier this week Higgs also said that parents never got a say on the policy and wanted to hear their input as part of the review.
“The policy writers are parents, the EECD experts who created and wrote and reviewed it are parents, the teachers who looked at it and reviewed it are parents,” he said.
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