New Brunswick

Judge sets dates for next steps in school district Policy 713 case

A court hearing will take place in June to decide whether to prevent the New Brunswick government from dissolving a school district board over a gender identity policy.

Anglophone East School District wants to block minister from revoking district gender-identity policy

A mutli-storey stone clad building with several flag poles in front.
A judge in Moncton has set dates for the next steps in a case filed by the Anglophone East School District over a gender identity policy. (Shane Magee/CBC)

A court hearing will take place in June to decide whether to prevent the New Brunswick government from dissolving a school district board over a gender identity policy.

"We do have to move quickly here," Court of King's Bench Chief Justice Tracey DeWare said Wednesday while setting timelines for the next steps in the case.

Last month, Anglophone East School District sought an injunction to prevent Education Minister Bill Hogan from revoking the district's policy.

Hogan, the district alleges, had threatened to dissolve the council overseeing schools in the Moncton region if it didn't comply with his demand by the end of March. The Education Act requires Hogan to ask a judge to approve dissolution.

The district wants a judge to temporarily prevent revoking of its policy and dissolution ahead of a broader court challenge of Hogan's changes last year to Policy 713.

The changes to the provincial gender-identity policy include making it mandatory for parental consent before school staff can use a chosen name and pronoun for children under 16.

WATCH | CBC's Raechel Huizinga breaks down Policy 713 changes:

CBC News Explains: How did the New Brunswick government change Policy 713?

11 months ago
Duration 2:19
New Brunswick's Department of Education made several changes to a policy designed to protect LGBTQ students, affecting sections on self-identification, extracurricular activities and washrooms.

Anglophone East's injunction request said it intends to argue that mandatory parental consent requirements go against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Constitution, the provincial Human Rights Act and the Education Act.

The district's case will be the second legal challenge to the policy change. A separate case launched last year by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association returns to court in Fredericton on Thursday.

Lawyers for the province and Anglophone East appeared in court Wednesday by phone as DeWare scheduled the next steps in the district's case. 

Province wants case tossed

Perri Ravon, a lawyer representing Anglophone East, argued for a judge to rule before the end of the school year. Ravon said allowing the provincial policy to apply, instead of the district's, would cause harm to students. 

"The minister appears to be determined to have the policy applied as soon as possible," Ravon said. 

Clarence Bennett, a lawyer representing the province, said the policy changes aren't new, and that the district's proposed timeline would be impossible.

Bennett said once the district files its broader challenge of Policy 713, the province will seek to have the case tossed. 

"We will file a motion to have this thing dismissed in its entirety," Bennett said. 

Bennett said the province also plans to challenge the qualifications of witnesses the district plans to use as expert witnesses in its case. 

DeWare, saying she wasn't taking a position on the merits of the district's case, ultimately agreed the court needed to hear the injunction request as quickly as possible. DeWare said the timeline was partly affected by the availability of judges.

The judge directed the district to file its broader constitutional case by April 30 and for the province to file its request to dismiss the case by May 15. 

A hearing on the evidence the sides will use will take place May 21.

A hearing for the injunctions was set for June 18-19.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.