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Sask. premier touts survey showing support for informing parents of name, pronoun changes in school

A poll released by the Angus Reid Institute shows support for the idea that parents should be informed when a child wishes to change their name and pronoun. (Carlos Osorio/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A poll released by the Angus Reid Institute shows support for the idea that parents should be informed when a child wishes to change their name and pronoun. (Carlos Osorio/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A study recently released by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) shows support for schools informing parents if their children wish to change their name or pronouns.

The poll was conducted in July, following a decision by the New Brunswick government to require parental permission for a child to change their given name and pronoun if they are under 16.

Last week, Saskatchewan followed up with a similar policy for students under the age of 16.

On Monday, Premier Scott Moe posted the results of the Angus Reid poll on social media.

"A new poll from Angus Reid Institute shows strong support in SK and across Canada for Parental Inclusion and Consent in education with 86% in SK supporting some level of notification for parents when children want to change their gender identity in school. Just 10% agree with the NDP position that parents should not be informed," Moe posted.

The Saskatchewan policy has been met with criticism from the Opposition NDP, Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, Canadian Civil Liberties Association and LGBTQ groups.

Hundreds attended a rally this weekend in Saskatoon protesting the naming and pronoun policy, along with changes to sexual education.

Last week, Opposition Leader Carla Beck said the Saskatchewan policy "will put already vulnerable kids at greater risk."

"We don't support outing kids," Beck said.

The Saskatchewan School Boards Association has called on the government to pause the change pending a review by the Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth, a team of professionals that acts as an independent officer of the provincial government, and some additional consultation.

Angus Reid's survey was conducted online from July 26 to 31 using 3,016 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The ARI said the probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Nationwide, 43 per cent of respondents said parents must be informed and give consent to change how their children identify, 35 per cent said parents must be informed, but shouldn't have to give consent, and 14 per cent said parents should have no role in the decision. Eight per cent did not say.

Saskatchewanians made up 255 of the respondents, with the smaller sample size resulting in a margin of error of about plus or minus seven percentage points, 19 times out of 20. In Saskatchewan, 50 per cent wanted parents to be informed and  to require their consent, 36 per cent were in favour of parents being informed, but did not think parental consent should be required, and 10 per cent said the decision should be up to the child.

"There's a real division on whether or not the consent is necessary, and I think that's the line we are seeing, and really interesting for perhaps less popular governments to consider if they are going to make a policy like this," said Dave Korzinkski, research director at the Angus Reid Institute. "There are a lot of places in the country where this would not go over as well as it appears it is in Saskatchewan."

Korzinski said the support for requiring consent from parents is also divided along partisan lines.

"If you look at those past Conservative (Party) supporters, 64 per cent say parents should be informed and give consent. It's just 30 per cent among Liberal supporters and 20 per cent among NDP supporters. So there is a real division in the country in terms of whether the parents should be able to say yes or no on this."

Korzinski said a broader study on a variety of issues, including the name and pronoun policy, will be released in a month or so, but that Angus Reid decided to put the results of this portion of the research because of the attention the policies in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have garnered.

"We wanted to get this data out. Now you could anticipate very similar responses, but it's hard to say if it would go maybe a point or two up in terms of supporting what the government has implemented or if you might get a little more pushback now that people know more about the policy."