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Sep 12, 2023
Ottawa, ON – The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and AFN 2SLGBTQQIA+ Council condemns the pronoun policies introduced by the Ministries of Education in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. In Saskatchewan, students under 16 need parental consent to use preferred names and pronouns. New Brunswick’s Policy 713 requires students below 16 wanting to discuss pronouns without parental knowledge to consult a school psychologist or social worker. These policies, which regulate the use of pronouns, violate basic human rights, and expose Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual (2SLGBTQQIA+) youth to the risk of being involuntarily outed at home or misgendered at school.
Interim National Chief Joanna Bernard states, “These policies are not just discriminatory and a clear violation of basic human rights, but also dangerously misguided. First Nations in Canada have a rich history of honouring 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals. This policy conflicts with our cultural norms and does not align with the principles of self-determination and identity that are vital to the health and well-being of First Nations in Canada. Further, this policy puts 2SLGBTQQIA+ youth in danger of being outed in unsupportive environments or being misgendered at school, both of which can have harmful consequences.”
“This policy puts youth in danger,” said Tyler George, Saskatchewan Regional representative for the AFN 2SLGBTQQIA+ Council. “Many Two Spirit and LGBTQQIA+ youth grow up in homes that do not accept them. Our youth often face alienation and lack of support by their own families. Considering the high suicide rates among First Nations, especially within the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community, schools should be safe havens, not places where identities are subject to parental approval. This new policy undermines our inherent rights to be who the Creator made us to be and maintains the troubling legacy of colonial policies aimed at erasing our identities and the continued oppression.”
Chief Allan Polchies, New Brunswick representative for the AFN 2SLGBTQQIA+ Council, added, “The recent changes to New Brunswick’s Policy 713 demonstrates the government’s ongoing effort to marginalize our most vulnerable. This policy disproportionately impacts 2SLGBTQQIA+ students, denying them of the basic human dignity they deserve—a move that can only be described as an act of transphobia. Schools should serve as safe spaces where all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, feel empowered to express themselves. I strongly urge both governments reassess their policies, correct its course, and act in the best interest of our shared future, ensuring that 2SLGBTQQIA+ youth can grow and thrive, free from discrimination and prejudice.”
Both the AFN Interim National Chief and the AFN 2SLGBTQQIA+ Council call for a repeal of these discriminatory policies and a formal apology from the Government of Saskatchewan and the Government of New Brunswick.
As other Canadian governments consider similar measures, it’s essential to recognize the role that legislative overreach plays in perpetuating harm. In a time when society should be moving toward inclusivity and understanding, these policies are a dangerous step backward and jeopardize the safety and well-being of 2SLGBTQQIA+ youth and set a harmful precedent that will adversely affect young people nationwide.
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a national advocacy organization that works to advance the collective aspirations of First Nations individuals and communities across Canada on matters of national or international nature and concern. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
For more information please contact:
Senior Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations