Polls Indicate Canadians Divided on Parental Notification of Gender and Pronoun Changes in Schools

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe listens during a news conference, in Whistler, B.C., on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. Moe says his government will use the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution and pass legislation this fall to ensure the province's pronoun policy remains in place.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A series of recent polls reveal that Canadians are divided on the issue of parental rights and the use of the notwithstanding clause concerning gender identity and pronoun changes in schools. The debate, which has gained traction over the past year, centers around the desire of parents to be informed if their child wishes to use a different name or pronoun in school settings.

The Notwithstanding Clause and Parental Rights

Nearly half of Canadians support the use of the notwithstanding clause in ensuring that schools notify parents if their child opts for a different name or pronoun, according to data from a Leger poll. This constitutional provision, found in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, allows governments to pass laws that override certain Charter rights for up to five years.

“At least 46 per cent of the respondents surveyed said they would support their province using the notwithstanding clause to ensure schools have to inform parents if their child wants to be called a new name or pronoun,” the Leger data indicates. In contrast, 31 per cent opposed the move, and 22 per cent were unsure.

Christian Bourque, executive vice-president of Leger, highlighted that, “The results cannot be ignored.”

In the last year, several states have imposed new restrictions on how schools can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity.Lea Suzuki / The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Debate Over Gender Identity Discussions in Schools

The Leger poll also shed light on the broader topic of discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. While 54 per cent of respondents felt these were essential topics for students and should be addressed in school, the remaining 46 per cent believed they should be left to parents.

However, topics like alcohol, drugs, racism, climate change, and truth and reconciliation received higher approval rates for classroom discussions.

Saskatchewan Stands Out

In Saskatchewan, a spark*insights poll commissioned by LGBTQ2S advocacy group Egale Canada revealed distinct figures. While 45 per cent of Saskatchewan respondents backed mandatory parental notification regarding pronoun changes, 55 per cent believed the decision should rest with the teachers.

Furthermore, a considerable majority, both in Saskatchewan (68 per cent) and nationally (73 per cent), opposed the provincial government’s intention to deploy the notwithstanding clause to expedite the school pronoun policy.

Egale executive director Helen Kennedy commented on the situation, “We should not be enacting the notwithstanding clause and ramming it through.”

In response to the ongoing debate, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe reaffirmed his belief in parental notifications, stating that parents should be informed about significant issues in their child’s life.

Parents and students gather in protest of school district policy’s at the Placentia Yorba Linda Unified School District offices in Placentia, Calif., on Jan. 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Evolving Landscape of Parental Rights

The term “parental rights” has seen growing resonance in Canada over the past year. Many expressing concerns about children learning about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools also criticize policies designed to make transgender and nonbinary students feel more welcome in classrooms.

Despite these reservations, the importance of parental rights is reportedly not a top priority in any province, according to the spark*insights poll. Only four per cent of all respondents and eight per cent of Saskatchewan residents ranked it among their top-three concerns.

For more detailed insights and comprehensive data, you can access the full reports from Leger and spark*insights.