Saskatchewan Human Rights Commissioner resigns amid latest scandal
By Matthew Hillier, Staff Writer
Heather Kuttai, one of six commissioners in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission,
has resigned over a controversial new bill. She is the first commissioner to resign from the post in over a quarter century.
Bill 137 will require children under the age of 16 to get parental consent before they change names or their preferred pronouns at school. It has also been fast-tracked by using the notwithstanding clause to override conditions within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Saskatchewan’s Human Rights Code for up to five years.
The bill was given unanimous support by MPs from the Saskatchewan Party, however, it was also unanimously opposed by members of the Saskatchewan NDP.
Kuttai stated in an interview with Global News, “This is something I cannot be a part of, and I will not be associated with a provincial government that takes away the rights of children, especially vulnerable children.”
Kuttai also stated that LQBTQ youth have historically a higher risk of both mental and physical abuse in school settings. She worries that Bill 137 will allow teachers to expose their students’ gender identity to their parents and teachers before they are ready. Kuttai herself has a transgender son and she believes that this bill would make other children, like her son, unsafe.
Kuttai however is not the only one upset at the new bill.
Students from various schools across the province have organized walkouts to protest the bill. A group of 40-50 students were later invited by opposition MLAs into the legislative assembly gallery after gathering outside a legislative building.
As well, according to CBC, hundreds of parents and activists gathered in a rally at the legislative gardens to show their opposition to Bill 137. They were swiftly met with counter-protesters who were in support of the bill. Police were called to separate the protesters and prevent the situation from escalating.
Opposition leaders claim that this bill is removing charter rights from students on the basis that the Saskatchewan party is discriminating against a particularly vulnerable group in the province, LGBTQ
An anonymous school counsellor in an interview with the Regina Leader-Post stated their opinion on the possible harmful effects of this new bill.
“There is solid evidence that kids using their preferred pronoun is better for their mental health. It helps reduce suicide it helps reduce self-harm. It helps reduce all of the problems that we see in students who are presenting as LGBTQ.”
Additionally, the Saskatchewan NDP, particularly NDP leader Carla Beckare, is upset with the new bill and views it as a “smokescreen” to avoid responsibility for past mistakes on similar issues.
“There are very real crises in this province – facing very real people – but instead of dealing with the crises in health care, in mental health and addictions, and the cost of living, we’ve been called back to the legislature for an emergency sitting to debate pronouns in schools.”
The bill is still being debated but it’s currently unknown if it will be amended or changed to reflect the wishes of students, teachers and parents alike. If the bill is finalized it will be in place for up to five years before it is redacted due to the notwithstanding clause being used to fast-track the bill.