Large turnout at demonstration in support of gender-identity policy

Supporters of gender policy in New Brunswick schools wave Pride flags outside the legislature on Saturday. (Lars Schwarz/CBC - image credit)
Supporters of gender policy in New Brunswick schools wave Pride flags outside the legislature on Saturday. (Lars Schwarz/CBC - image credit)

The front lawn of the New Brunswick legislature in Fredericton was crowded on Saturday afternoon as teachers, parents and students demonstrated in support of gender-identity policy.

They carried signs promoting LGBTQ rights and education, as well as Pride flags.

On Monday, the provincial government confirmed it is reviewing Policy 713 due to hundreds of complaints and questions they said they received from parents and teachers. The policy was introduced in 2020.

Policy 713 lays out minimum requirements for school districts to create a safe, welcoming learning environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and two-spirited students.

It says students have the right to self-identify and express themselves without fear of consequence, and teachers must create a school culture where the students "see themselves and their lives positively reflected."

Lars Schwarz/CBC
Lars Schwarz/CBC

Supporters of the policy accuse the government of caving to anti-LGTBQ sentiment.

There were a few counter-protesters at the legislature Saturday. They held signs protesting LGBTQ education in school, and the policy in question.

Amie Palmer is a stay-at-home mother of three children and her oldest son, 14, is transgender.

She said she showed up on Saturday for her son and for the kids who might not be comfortable coming out to their parents. She said she is worried that by reviewing the policy, the government means to take it away.

"We're here to say the bare minimum that this policy is saying is that we have gender-neutral bathrooms, that we're using the proper pronouns for kids and that the kids have support in the school," said Palmer. "We're not trying to teach additional sex education."

She became emotional when bringing up some of the policies being passed in the U.S. regarding transgender children.

Lars Schwarz/CBC
Lars Schwarz/CBC

"My children have friends who are closeted gays that haven't come out to their family but have come out to their friends and their teachers," she said. "It was just really important to be here for those kids today."

Avery Jardine, a Grade 11 student at Leo Hayes High School, was also at the demonstration Saturday. Jardine said they also know people who feel safe using preferred names and pronouns at school, but not at home.

"Policy 713 keeps LGBTQ youth safe in schools," Jardine said. "It keeps me and my friends safe."

Jardine said the policy protects a person's right to join a club at school and not be excluded as a member of the LGBTQ community, and teachers have to try to use a student's preferred name and pronouns.

According to Jardine, it also means a student who hears something homophobic or transphobic can bring it to the principal and it has to be addressed.