Higgs says he didn’t expect gender policy changes in schools to become national wave

OTTAWA — Premier Blaine Higgs says he never expected other provinces to follow New Brunswick’s lead on requiring teachers to seek parental consent before using a student’s preferred pronouns.

“We certainly have talked amongst colleagues,” Higgs told a crowd of conservative faithful at the annual Canada Strong and Free Network conference in Ottawa on Thursday.

“And so in those discussions, did I think it would turn into a national thing? No, that wasn’t a discussion.”

New Brunswick became the the first province in Canada to impose the rule for students under 16 last year, prompting backlash from the LGBTQ+ community, doctors and the province’s advocate for children, who warned it could place vulnerable kids at risk.

Saskatchewan and Alberta have since followed suit — a development Higgs says he did not necessarily expect, but is now watching closely.

Higgs, who was has been premier since 2018, is facing an election this year, a fight made tougher by a caucus revolt spurred by his gender policy changes.

He says the week he introduced those changes, he and his wife of more than 40 years said: “This could be the issue that either continues us in government or takes us out.”

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is also scheduled to address the conference later on Thursday.

Poilievre has said that minors should not have access to puberty blockers and that transgender athletes should be barred from female sports and change rooms.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2024.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press