Alberta intends to intervene in Sask. government’s appeal of pronoun law challenge

Kayle Neis/Regina Leader-Post. Youth from various high schools in Regina stage a rally outside the Saskatchewan Legislative Building surrounding a policy from the Saskatchewan Government surrounding pronouns on Tuesday, October 17, 2023 in Regina.

Arguments on the appeal may be set ahead to September, pending approval from the Court of Appeal.

Larissa Kurz, Regina Leader-Post

Alberta intends to join the Saskatchewan government’s appeal to stop a constitutionality challenge against its pronoun consent law, lawyers on both sides revealed Monday.

The original legal action against the policy-now-law was filed last year by UR Pride Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity.

Two weeks ago, the Government of Saskatchewan filed leave for appeal and a stay of proceedings, following a decision from the Court of King’s Bench to allow the litigation to continue.

Lawyers for both UR Pride and government advised the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in a pre-conference Monday that Alberta’s attorney general has expressed intention to seek leave as an intervenor, as has the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

“We’ve heard from the Attorney General of Canada, who does not intend to seek leave to intervene,” added Adam Goldenberg, co-counsel for UR Pride.

Alberta would be a new party to join the matter, as CCLA is one of five intervenors already granted status in the original litigation.

Premier Danielle Smith unveiled similar parental consent policies in February, just four months after Saskatchewan enshrined its own into law using the notwithstanding clause to override sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A request for comment sent to Alberta’s Ministry of Justice seeking context for the decision to join the appeal was not returned by deadline Monday.

Deron Kuski, of private firm MLT Aikins representing the Saskatchewan government, said counsel is also seeking agreement for an additional month to serve and file an appeal book.

He said there has been “some work done” to prepare factum but to deliver by mid-April in line with the 30-day deadline as required by court rules would not be feasible for appellant counsel.

Both parties indicated they don’t expect to file new evidence, though Kuski did note that “the complexion has changed since Justice Megaw gave his decision.”

Mentioned as having “great significance” was a ruling last month from the Quebec Court of Appeal on Bill 21, the “secularism law” introduced in 2019, which prohibits some government employees from wearing religious symbols in the workplace.

The Hak v. Attorney General of Quebec decision given in February upheld that the notwithstanding clause overrides Section 28 of the Charter, which guarantees gender equality.

“There were very significant arguments made by both sides in relation to the lower court’s decision,” said Kuski. “It needs to be dealt with and it has not been.”

Goldenberg said UR Pride has a desire to conclude this matter “as expeditiously as possible” in order to return to proceedings on the originating application.

“There’s no issue that was not before Justice Megaw in the first instance,” he said. “Though the issues are complex, we’ve all done our homework and written them up already.”

The court is to consider potential dates in September for arguments. No decision was made Monday.