On Thursday, the Table national de lutte contre l’homophobie et la transphobie released a guide for academic institutions from preschool to university designed to guide them in supporting transgender and non-binary youth. Recognizing the important role that educational institutions can play in improving outcomes for transgender youth, the guide lists a number of recommendations on steps that should be taken. These include recommendations to permit youth to use bathrooms and changing rooms that match their gender identity, reducing gender-divided activities, and implementing procedures for youth to change their first name and gender on internal documents. Also included are recommendations on respecting the youth’s choice of name and pronoun, and respecting their right to confidentiality. These are important moves: supportive academic environments have been shown to have significant positive effects on trans and non-binary youth. A study published by GLSEN, a US based advocacy organization, found that students who had access to supportive staff, Gay-Straight Alliances and LGBTQ positive curricula had higher grades, higher levels of attendance, a stronger connection to their school community, and a higher likelihood of pursuing post-secondary education.
These advances are encouraging, and follow a number of important movements regarding transgender rights in Quebec and the rest of Canada in the recent past. In 2016 Quebec passed Bill 103, which amended the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include protections against discrimination based on gender identity, and granted youth more decision making powers over aspects of their identity. Bill C-16, which amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to make it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of their gender identity, passed in 2017.
Quebec would not be the first province to move in this direction with their schools. Alberta’s Minister of Education released guidelines that included advising teachers to address students by the names and pronouns requested by the student, allowing children to use washrooms of their choice, and allowing students to play on sports teams that match their gender identity. The province has also introduced legislation that would require schools to permit youth to form Gay-Straight alliances if requested and that would make it illegal for publicly-funded schools to inform parents that their child has joined one without the consent of the child. If the law is passed it will take effect in April.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.