May 25, 2023
Madeleine Nickerson, Jennifer Richard, and Beth Lyons
New Brunswick is in the midst of a backlash against 2SLGBTQIA+ people and communities.
There is a segment of this backlash that is extreme and is organized. Its participants have protested drag storytime at a public library and professional development for teachers on sexual orientation and gender diversity. They have coordinated requests to review 2SLGBTQIA+ affirming sex education books in library collections as well as a school policy that supports 2SLGBTQIA+ students and families.
These activities are not about protecting children or women’s rights, as some claim they are. Rather, they are driven by misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories. These activities are not only a threat to members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community but to individuals belonging to any marginalized group in our province. They undermine legitimate efforts to address sexual abuse of children and youth and are a threat to the equality of women and girls. They present a serious risk to democracy as they function as an on-ramp to extremism.
Given this, the New Brunswick Women’s Council is profoundly troubled by government's response to concerns about Council Day at Hanwell Academy and decision to review Policy 713 on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Whether government realizes it or not, many of the issues it has recently raised about drag storytime, Policy 713, and trans inclusion in sports echo the claims and arguments of those organizing anti-2SLGTBTQIA+ activities. Government is also disregarding the evidence-based work that has already been done on trans inclusion in New Brunswick human rights law, educational settings, and sports.
Given this, the Women's Council has provided advice to government on how to move forward. Further, we have provided government with a brief on the rise of anti-2SLGBTQIA+ activities in New Brunswick, which we are also making public.
It is clear that the safety of children and youth as well as the rights of women and girls require that 2SLGBTQIA+ people of all ages be protected and affirmed through evidence-based policy.
Our recommendations to government are:
- to publicly affirm its support for the 2SLGBTQIA+ population and acknowledge the ongoing discrimination and violence this community faces, including the organized backlash in New Brunswick;
- to acknowledge the harm that has been caused to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community by its communications about Council Day and Policy 713; and
- to halt the planned revision of Policy 713 in light of the context we have provided about extremist anti-2SLGBTQIA+ organizing.
If government proceeds with the review, we have recommended that it publicly:
- provide a clear, factual account with supporting documentation of what led to the review being initiated;
- identify which specific sections are being revised, why, and to what end;
- affirm that no rights or protections for 2SLGBTQIA+ students or families will be rolled back, including students’ right to self-identify; consistent use of appropriate pronouns and names for trans students by school staff; and the requirement that students’ informed consent be obtained before conversations with parents or guardians about their gender identity;
- affirm that the process will be centred on supporting 2SLGBTQIA+ students and families;
- commit to an evidence-based process; and
- commit to making details of that process public before the process begins.
The New Brunswick Women’s Council is an independent public advisory body on women’s equality issues.