Discover more from 338Canada.ca
Jingling Keys: Pronouns and Name Changes
Polling says Canadians agree with informing parents about their child changing names or pronouns at school, but why has this topic arisen now?
What Do Polls Say?
Overall, Canadians agree with the notion that parents should be informed if their child changes their name and pronouns at school. According to an Angus Reid Institute survey, 43% say parents should be informed and be required to give consent, while another 35% say parents should only be informed. 14% say that parents shouldn’t be informed or have a say in the issue.
New Democratic voters are most strongly in favour of leaving the issue up to the child involved (34%) while Conservatives are heavily in favour of requiring consent by parents and informing them (64%). Liberals are more likely to say they want parents informed but not necessarily requiring parental consent (39%).
Young Canadians are also more likely to side with those children impacted by the changes while middle-aged Canadians are most likely to require parental consent as well as informing parents.
The most important respondent pool here are those who don’t prefer to self describe as male or female, a respondent pool of more than 300 in this poll. Of this group, only 34% think parents should be informed while a whopping 58% say that parents should not be informed of the decision, and it should be up to the child involved. An outlier compared to the rest of Canadians but almost certainly because these policies would have directly impacted them if they were in the child’s situation.
This raises a curious question: Why have the provinces that have brought up this topic done so? And why now?
The answer may well be a case of jingling keys.
Higgs and New Brunswick
The first instance of this occurred in New Brunswick under Blaine Higg’s Progressive Conservative government. Higgs’ controversy comes from the attempted changes to Policy 713, a minimum standard for schools to ensure a ”safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for LGBTQ students”. The biggest change that caused backlash stemmed from the requirement for schools to tell parents if their child is choosing to go by different names or pronouns while also requiring their consent for the child to be addressed as such.
Essentially, this requires the intervention of a parent for a young person to change their identity. It’s fair to say parents should be aware of what’s going on regarding their children. However, if a parent isn’t aware of such a drastic change before a school board makes them aware of it, there’s clearly a reason for that (Unsafe households are typically the prime reason for young queer individuals to keep their true identities from their parents, as not to encourage retaliation within the household).
Higgs faced a rebellion within his caucus because of these changes. Six ministers and two backbenchers denounced the process, and Higgs threatened an election over his MLA’s posturing. There was even a failed attempt to trigger a leadership review by the party over this issue.
Higgs’ government has been unpopular in many respects with the Premier enjoying some of the lowest net approvals among Canada’s premiers (-39% in Angus Reid’s June 2023 survey). It’s possible such a change was simply an attempt to whip up a culture-war issue to reinforce the conservative base. Whether it will work or not is yet to be seen.
Moe, Saskatchewan, and the Sask Party’s Right Flank
Scott Moe faces a different challenge in Saskatchewan. His government is relatively popular and he’s sitting pretty in the approvals (Highest in Canada at +18%), which makes one wonder why he’d tackle this topic. The short answer is the Saskatchewan United Party (SUP).
The recent by-elections in Saskatchewan saw the SUP field its first candidate in Lumsden-Morse, a traditionally safe conservative riding. The SUP pulled 22.8% of the vote in the byelection, tanking the Saskatchewan Party from 73.4% to 53.7%. That’s still a comfortable win for the SKP, but if the SUP can replicate that kind of margin elsewhere, it may start threatening Moe’s control of government.
The SUP effectively ran against sex-ed during their campaign in Lumsden-Morse after a scandal broke out at Lumsden High School regarding Planned Parenthood. The long story short is that a presenter during a sex-ed course brought in a series of cards that were deemed inappropriate for students. While the presentation was aligned with the curriculum, the cards were not and that landed Planned Parenthood in trouble and thus sparked the SUP’s rage against the topic.
As expected, Moe and his government had stepped in to address the issue. What’s strange is the shift to aligning with Higgs and adopting the same rules that require parental consent for those under 16 to change their name and pronouns at school.
The simple answer is that Moe is trying to fend off a political party that ate some of his lunch. Moe will do what he can to kill the SUP in the proverbial crib as to not threaten his chances of winning come next year.
Ford, Ontario, and the Greenbelt
Doug Ford has been facing heaps of controversy lately regarding decisions around the Greenbelt. In short, some parts of the Greenbelt are being broken off and sold to developers to help address the housing crisis.
However, many of these developers have ties to Doug Ford, primarily as donors to the Progressive Conservative Party. The Auditor General released a report in which they called decisions surrounding the Greenbelt as “biased and seriously flawed”. As such, the party has landed itself in hot water with the public. Not to mention the possible RCMP investigation into the issue.
The Ford government will do what it can to distance itself from its controversy and joining up with Saskatchewan and New Brunswick on this policy is an easy way to do that. Additionally, OSSTF and ETFO, the Ontario Teachers Unions, are currently in various stages of working towards strike action, throwing yet another wrench into the government’s plans.
In short, some governments are jingling keys so you look elsewhere instead of looking at their ongoing flaws.