One of the most encouraging aspects of the public conversation on parental rights in Canada is the fact that politicians who are primarily libertarian in their outlook—such as federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith—are also voicing their support for parental rights in education. At the recent United Conservative Party convention in Calgary, for example, Smith made that support explicit and got rousing applause from the members.
“I want every parent listening today to hear me loud and clear: parents are the primary caregivers and educators of their children,” Smith said. “We cannot have a successful province or a successful society without strong and nurturing families. And regardless of how often the extreme left undermines the role of parents, I want you to know that parental rights and choice in your child’s education is and will continue to be a fundamental core principle of this party and this government and we will never apologize for it.”
The reason this is particularly encouraging is that both Smith and Poilievre were very reluctant to come out and publicly take a stand on the issue, even as premiers from New Brunswick to Saskatchewan staked their political careers on parental rights legislation, with Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe invoking the “notwithstanding clause” to overrule a judge’s attempt to block the law (which is only the second time the clause has been used outside of Quebec). Their support indicates that they are now certain the issue is a political winner with a super-majority of Canadians onside. Pragmatism indicates support where principle sometimes does not.
LGBT activists are aware of this, too, and they are now considering new tactics. As I have noted at length in this space, thus far they have utilized the press to great effect, accusing their opponents (and Canadian parents!) of being an active threat to “LGBT kids”; they relied on the courts to put a stop to the legislation on human rights grounds. In Saskatchewan, where that attempt failed when Premier Scott Moe called their bluff, they are moving on to another strategy: civil disobedience. From the CBC:
Alex Schmidt says she knows she may face consequences for not following the province’s pronoun law, but it’s a risk she’s willing to take. The Regina public school teacher says she’d rather ensure gender-diverse children who could be put at risk by the law are safe.
“Part of the process has always been: ‘No. 1, thank you for sharing this with me, and No. 2, how can I support you?”‘ Schmidt said. “I think that respects the rights of parents. And if children say, ‘I need you to support me and not share this information until I understand how,’ then that is the way that I would support students.”
Schmidt and dozens of other teachers have signed an online petition calling on school divisions not to follow the law. It says the legislation harms gender-diverse students, as it could force them to come out or have teachers misgender them. “We will continue to use the practice of letting students have autonomy over their identity and letting students determine who does and doesn’t know about their gender disclosure,” the petition says. The law, passed in October, prevents children under 16 from changing their names or pronouns at school without parental consent.