Leave to appeal granted in Sask. pronoun court case

Michelle Berg/Saskatoon StarPhoenix Heated exchanges between protesters and counter-protesters over school pronoun policy take place along Saskatoon's riverbank on Wednesday, September 20, 2023.

Brandon Harder

Regina Leader-Post

The Saskatchewan government won’t have to argue for permission to appeal a judge’s decision in the case against its pronoun consent law.

An order was issued Monday that grants the government permission to appeal the Feb. 16 decision from Court of King’s Bench Justice Michael Megaw, and puts the case on hold until the appeal has been settled.

The order effectively allows the government to skip a step in its pursuit to have the decision scrutinized by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, and was issued with the consent of the UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Diversity, which brought the case in August.

The case originally targeted a government policy regarding the use of preferred names and pronouns in schools, with UR Pride seeking to challenge its constitutionality.

That policy was eventually rescinded, as it was replaced with a law, the Parents’ Bill of Rights. The bill invokes what’s known as the notwithstanding clause, which is meant to allow the law to stand regardless of whether or not it violates sections 2, 7 and 15 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as listed in the law’s text.

Part of the law pertaining to students under age 16 requires parental or guardian consent before school staff can “use the pupil’s new gender-related preferred name or gender identity.”

UR Pride sought to amend its case to instead take aim at the new law, as well as advance an additional argument that the law violates Section 12 of the Charter, which protects Canadians against cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

Megaw’s decision allowed the amendments, and holds that the court still has jurisdiction to hear and determine the Charter issues despite the use of the notwithstanding clause.

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Documents filed by the government indicate an intention to argue Megaw was mistaken in a number of areas, including his decision that the original Charter issues (life, liberty and security of the person, as well as equality) could still be decided by the court, and in his decision to allow argument on the additional section of the Charter.

The government has effectively submitted that the addition of an argument regarding Section 12, which was not listed as being covered by the notwithstanding clause in the law, is an attempt to skirt the protections built into the law.

No hearing date has yet been set for the appeal.