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Provinces Rally to Support Parents’ Right to Be Informed About their Child’s Gender Transition

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Many top provincial officials across Canada have recently stated that parents should be informed if their children are changing genders at school. Activist Julia Malott, a transgender person, has been advocating against schools encouraging gender transition without parental consent. Malott has been involved in discussions with the Ontario government on this issue and was surprised by the early timing of Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s announcement supporting parental rights. Lecce stated that parents have the right to know and that these decisions can be life-changing. However, he did not mention any policy changes to enforce this position, leading advocacy group Parents as First Educators to start a petition calling for legislation to support Lecce’s statement.

Malott sees Lecce’s announcement as evidence of a shift towards a more balanced approach that supports all students while respecting parental rights. Parents have a broader perspective than teachers and are better suited to make decisions regarding comorbidities and handling gender dysphoria, according to Malott. Recent public opinion polls and premiers speaking out in favor of informing parents may have given Lecce the courage to make this announcement. An Angus Reid poll showed that 78 percent of Canadians believe parents should be informed, and a May poll by similarly found a majority in favor of parental notification.

Several provincial premiers, including New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, and Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, have made policy changes to protect parental rights. Alberta repealed a policy that prevented teachers from informing parents if their children joined LGBT clubs or transitioned genders. However, teachers are not obligated to notify parents either. A teacher in Calgary even instructed a Grade 6 class to keep a classmate’s gender identity secret from their parents. The federal position has been divided, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking out against New Brunswick’s policy changes, while Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre expressed support for parental rights.

Ottawa parent Pamela Buffone has fought for her rights as a parent to determine what her child is taught about gender. Her case was dismissed by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in 2022, but she continues to advocate for parental rights. Buffone believes that parental rights should be clearly defined and explicitly stated in Canadian law. She has learned about legal precedents that uphold a parent’s right to be informed, such as a 2015 Supreme Court decision that interpreted the right to school choice as including the right to be informed. Buffone and Malott argue that not informing parents actively promotes social gender transitioning that can lead to medical interventions without parental consent.

The age at which a child can receive hormone treatments or surgery without parental consent varies by province, but consent is generally considered to be around age 14. Keeping gender transitioning secret from parents can cause children to become alienated from their families. Teachers, peers, and LGBT groups become the child’s primary community, replacing the family, according to Malott. This can strain relationships and hinder their long-term survival. Malott, who has a school-aged daughter, finds it concerning that she would have to sign off on other aspects of her child’s school life but wouldn’t be informed if her child was using a different name and identifying as a different gender.

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