Alberta intends to intervene in Parents’ Bill of Rights case before Sask. Court of Appeal

Alberta announced it plans to intervene in a legal appeal that would prevent a judge from reviewing the constitutionality of a controversial piece of Saskatchewan legislation.

The Parents’ Bill of Rights, initially known as the pronoun policy, requires parental consent for students under 16 to change their names or pronouns in school.

On Tuesday, Alberta Minister of Justice Mickey Amery said he intends to lend his support to the Saskatchewan government as it calls on the province’s highest court for a ruling that would put an end to an ongoing legal challenge that could deem the law unconstitutional.

“Alberta has written to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal advising of our intention to apply to intervene in Saskatchewan’s appeal of the UR Pride decision of the Saskatchewan Court of Kings Bench,” a joint statement between the two province’s attorney generals said on Tuesday.

Shortly after it was introduced as a Ministry of Education policy in August 2023, UR Pride and Egale Canada launched a legal challenge in the Court of King’s Bench claiming it violated the Charter rights of children.

To prevent the pronoun rules from being struck down, the province enshrined the policy into law, invoking the notwithstanding clause to shield it from a potential court order.

In February, an appeal court judge said the Charter case could proceed anyway. Even if the court could not strike down the law because of the notwithstanding clause, a judge could still hear the case and decide if the law violated the Charter rights of children.

The Saskatchewan government turned to Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to intervene.

In its submission, the Alberta government said it intends to argue that the use of the notwithstanding clause should prevent a judge from even hearing the case.

In a statement to CTV News, Egale Canada’s legal director Bennett Jensen said the stakes could not be higher in this case — lives and dignity of young people are in the balance, and a judge has already ruled that aspects of the pronoun rules would cause irreparable harm to gender diverse youth.

“We are now at a new low in our country where certain provincial leaders are joining forces to play a dangerous political game with the lives of gender diverse youth. These governments are pursuing policies that rely on misinformation, violate the guidance of experts, and cause irreparable harm to young people,” the statement read.

“We urge these governments to prioritize the best interests of children and youth rather than their own political aims.”

In their joint statement Tuesday, attorney generals Amery and Bronwyn Eyre said the two provinces agree that parents are the “ultimate authority” figures in children’s lives.

“Notifying parents and requiring their consent before a child’s name or pronouns can be changed in schools and before classroom discussions about gender identity and other sensitive subjects occur ensures the parent-child relationship is respected and paramount,” the statement said.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Eyre said she is pleased Alberta has joined Saskatchewan because it drives home the importance of the constitutional issues at stake.

“There is a very important constitutional issue at play here about whether the notwithstanding clause is the final word,” she said.

Speaking to reporters, NDP MLA Nicole Sarauer said the announcement is not surprising.

“This government clearly does not want to have a judge tell them what we already know, that what they have done, infringing on the rights of vulnerable children, is a charter violation, and they’re going to delay the inevitable which is the fact that this was a charter violation, and an egregious decision from this government, for as long as they can,” she said.

Eyre said the Court of Appeal has agreed to hear the case and will wait for the court’s schedule.

– With files from David Prisciak 

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