N.B. premier defends handling of Policy 713 changes in year-end interview

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says he wouldn’t change how he and his government handled controversial changes to school gender identity policy.

“I’m not sure what else that I would have done differently,” he said in a year-end interview with Global News.

“Really, we had a policy that hides information from parents? That’s problematic.”

News broke that the government was quietly reviewing Policy 713 in the spring with changes to the policy announced in June. The new policy now requires parental consent for a child under 16 to use a different name or pronoun for reasons related to their gender identity.

The changes have drawn criticism from LGBTQ2 advocates and educational experts who say more children will likely remain in the closet or be forced to be outed to their parents, who may not be supportive. A legal challenge from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association arguing the policy violates children’s Charter rights has just been granted public interest.

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But Higgs says he feels that he is on the right side of the issue as he looks to stand up for “parental rights.”

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“When you have a policy that basically says that all parents aren’t capable of handling tough decisions or tough issues, that I feel is wrong,” he said.

The changes to Policy 713 have shown divisions in Higgs’ own caucus and party, causing resignations from cabinet and a failed push for a leadership review. Anger over the issue has also spilled outside of the province’s political sphere with large protests and counter protests in August that saw people on opposite sides of the street shouting at one another.

While Higgs says he does take responsibility for the ugly disputes that have taken place in the province he says he doesn’t regret how he’s approached the issue.

“I probably take significant amount of that in the sense of what prompted the conversation,” he said.

“What is surprising is that it’s a conversation at all, that we question whether parents should have a role in the raising of their kids.”

New Brunswick Liberal Leader Susan Holt says she’s not surprised that Higgs doesn’t regret how he handled the Policy 713 issue and says that he created an issue where one didn’t exist.

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“He’s created an issue with misinformation that impacts a really small number of very vulnerable kids,” she said.

“But it now impacts the entire school system because he’s told parents not trust their kids’ teachers.”

Green Leader David Coon said its clear that Higgs hasn’t tried to empathize or understand the opposing viewpoints on the policy, which has lead to the issue being handled carelessly.

“I don’t think the premier understands, I don’t think the premier has tried to understand,” Coon said.

“He’s found and has discovered that this is a strong political wedge and he is exploiting it for all the political power that he can wring out of it.”

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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