N.B. cabinet OK's seeking dissolution of education council over gender identity policy

The New Brunswick government has begun the formal process to dissolve a Moncton-area district education council over a gender identity policy.

The process outlined in the Education Act requires cabinet approval before going to court to ask a judge to approve dissolution.

A May 9 order-in-council reveals cabinet gave that approval to go to court. An order-in-council outlines a decision by cabinet and is signed by the lieutenant governor.

The order in council grants Education Minister Bill Hogan the authority to file an application in the Court of King's Bench seeking to dissolve the Anglophone East district education council (DEC).

While Hogan said May 2 that he would begin the process for dissolution, it wasn't clear until the order-in-council was recently published that cabinet had given the go-ahead.

A search of the province's online court registry suggests the court filing has yet to happen.

The province didn't provide an interview Thursday. Judy Winter, a spokesperson for the province, said in an emailed statement that the "intention is to file shortly with the court."

Harry Doyle, chair of the education council, told CBC News he had not been notified of the step by cabinet prior to being contacted by news media Thursday.

"I'm not surprised, I guess I am disappointed," Doyle said of the move, referring further comment to lawyers representing the education council.

Harry Doyle, chairperson of the Anglophone East School District education council, says the Sackville Schools 2020 proposal didn't have enough support in the community or with students and staff at the high school.
Harry Doyle, chair of the Anglophone East district education council, says he's disappointed but not surprised by the move. (Shane Magee/CBC)

In a statement issued Thursday, the education council said it has yet to receive any notice of a court filing and that the council remains "fully operational."

"If and when the minister chooses to act on the May 9, 2024 authorization, the DEC is prepared to defend its integrity through all available channels," the statement says.

"The DEC remains steadfast in its mission to provide quality education and support to all students within the Anglophone East School District."

Hogan had threatened to dissolve the education council, which oversees the school district, over its spending on a legal challenge of the province's changes to Policy 713, which deals with sexual orientation and gender identity.

Last year, the province updated Policy 713 to require school staff to seek the consent of a parent when a student under 16 wants to use a new name or pronoun informally at school. The education council has gone to court challenging the policy, arguing it violates the rights of students.

The education council has approved a policy implementing Policy 713 that says school staff "shall respect the direction of the student in regard to the name and pronouns they wish to be called in daily interactions with school personnel and other students."

The district's statement Thursday said its legal challenge would continue.

The education council's legal challenge initially sought to block Hogan from seeking dissolution, though a judge rejected that request in a ruling earlier this year.

The legal challenge is one of two moving through court over the province's changes to Policy 713. A separate case filed by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has been filed in Fredericton.