Mother says education minister asked her to help rewrite LGBTQ policy she supports
A Saint John mother is speaking out after she says the minister of education asked her to help rewrite a section of an LGBTQ-protection policy she fully supports.
On Tuesday, Nicole Paquet spoke to the Progressive Conservative caucus about how that policy, if it had been implemented correctly, would have prevented harm to her son who was outed by a teacher, resulting in the family needing to move and change schools.
Her presentation was related to the review of Policy 713. One section says if a child under 16 asks to go by a different name or pronoun informally in school, teachers have to get the consent of the child before sharing that information with parents.
Paquet told caucus a teacher, who did not follow this part of the policy, called her and disclosed that her son was using a different name as he explored his gender identity. She said her son's trust in teachers was broken, and he was robbed of the opportunity to communicate this information at his own pace.
The day after her presentation, she said Education Minister Bill Hogan called her and asked for her help in "crafting some wording," for that section.
"I was absolutely gobsmacked with the fact that this person thought that he could use his power, in this way, to ask me to change a policy that I clearly agree with," she said.
Paquet said even if she wanted to help change the wording, Hogan wanted to go in the opposite direction, making it mandatory to tell parents about an informal name or pronoun change.
But she said the impact of the actions of that teacher had a negative impact on her son.
"Through that year, he had changed significantly. He wasn't engaged anymore. He wasn't stepping into joy."
The policy should remain unchanged, she said, and teachers should be better informed and trained in it.
She said she works with corporations and workplaces to make sure their policies are implemented correctly. In her presentation, she offered her expertise to help implement the policy universally across all schools.
WATCH | Mother worries review of Policy 713 lacks transparency, not being done in good faith:
Paquet said this is not how a policy review should happen, and consultation is not being done in good faith.
"If you're going through this process at all, it has to be transparent, it has to be inclusive, you need to give it the time," she said.
"There's a really bad impact that's going to come down the pipe if you continue to close out the people who have something to say."
In response to a request for interview with Hogan, a spokesperson said until the policy review work is done, he "will not be commenting any further on Policy 713."
Women's Council recommends review be discontinued
Beth Lyons of the New Brunswick Women's Council said no one should be put in Paquet's position, especially since there's no guarantee that any input she gave would be followed.
"She is just a citizen who happens to have some lived experience," Lyons said. "Even if she had accepted the offer from the minister of education, she would be walking into that situation with an unbelievable power imbalance."
The Women's Council, along with the New Brunswick child and youth advocate and the Human Rights Commission have all expressed concerns about this policy review, with some asking for a pause.
Lyons said Policy 713 was created after years of consultation with experts and people affected. She said government is being provided with expert advice by organizations such as hers and "it is disregarding it."
She said there is no evidence that a change is warranted, and the council is recommending the province stop this review or provide the data and evidence that a review is needed.
Since the review became public knowledge two weeks ago, thousands of students have walked out of class in protest. Advocates have said the policy is boilerplate and basic, and any change would likely harm LGBTQ children.
Premier Higgs and Hogan have said the review is not meant to roll back LGBTQ rights.
Paquet said when she made the presentation to caucus, she felt that almost all MLAs agreed with her. Seven Progressive Conservatives, including cabinet ministers, have spoken out in support of Policy 713.
The Department of Education said the result of the review is expected by the first week of June.