Canadian Human Rights commissioner resigns over new school pronoun rule to out kids to parents

A protester holding a sign that reads 'protect trans kids'

A Canadian human rights commissioner has resigned after her province’s government said it would use a clause in its constitution to pass legislation preventing children under 16 from changing their names or pronouns at school without parental consent.

In a letter to Saskatchewan right-wing premier Scott Moe, tending her immediate resignation, Heather Kuttai – who has a trans son – said the decision to step down was not made lightly but because the bill is “an attack on the rights of trans, non-binary and gender-diverse children”. 

The policy is something she “cannot be a part of”, and she did not want to be “associated with a provincial government that takes away the rights of children, especially vulnerable children”, she added.

“A child’s rights must always take precedence over a parent’s obligations and responsibilities. My first concern is that this [bill] is going to hurt kids.”

Bill 137, known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights, was introduced by Saskatchewan Party education minister Jeremy Cockrill last week and outlines a number of rights parents have regarding their children’s education. These include access to the pupil’s school file, being able to see what sexual-health content is being taught, and being informed of their child’s academic performance and progression. 

“Parents should always be involved in important decisions involving their children,” Cockrill said at the time.

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“The parental inclusion and consent policy introduced in August and this legislation we are introducing today will ensure that continues to be the case.”

‘Saskatchewan will no longer be a place that takes care of all its kids’

The bill invokes section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a clause which gives provincial legislatures the ability to override parts of the charter for a period of five years. 

Former paralympic shooter Kuttai, who won medals in Seoul and Barcelona, went on to say her decision to resign was prompted by the fact she has a child who is trans, making the policy – which she would have opposed anyway – a “bigger issue” for her family. 

“One of the reasons he is now out, and thriving, is because of the support he received at school,” Kuttai wrote in her resignation letter. “I hate to think what would have happened if he had not had that support.

“I can’t be a good citizen of this province, I can’t be a commissioner that defends human rights, I can’t be the mother – a good mother – to a trans kid if I just sit by and let this happen,” she said. 

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Kuttai, who was appointed to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission in 2014, described how the policy felt “personal” and made her realise she “couldn’t continue to be a part of a system that is fundamentally anti-trans”.

If the legislation passes “Saskatchewan will no longer be a place that takes care of all its kids,” she claimed. 

“This is the only province in Canada where the rights of 2SLGBTQ+ kids are not the same as other children in this country. We’re all born into this country with rights. That’s part of what makes this country great. We don’t own our kids.”

Sharing a video of her calling out the policy, opposition Saskatchewan New Democratic party leader, Carla Beck, wrote on social media: “I got into politics because, as a concerned parent, I wanted to be more involved in my kids’ education. 

“This bill doesn’t increase parental involvement in school, it just removes rights away from a vulnerable group of students.”