Media release: Open letter demands protections for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth in schools

June 8, 2022

KJIPUKTUK (HALIFAX, NS) – As preparations for Pride Month observations in June were getting into gear across the province, health and education professionals and concerned parents were also making connections with one another, sharing their experiences of dangerous inconsistencies in how Nova Scotia’s education system supports – and sometimes fails to support – 2SLGBTQIA+ children and youth. Those connections have borne fruit this week, as a coalition of allied individuals and organizations addressed a new open letter to the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development recommending specific actions to fully protect Nova Scotia’s kids from sexual orientation and gender identity and expression change efforts (SOGIECE, aka conversion “therapy” or conversion practices).

Veronica Merryfield, founder of Cape Breton Transgender Network, says, “2SLGBTQIA+ children are being targeted where their safety should be assured. Many are choosing not to come out at school.” Merryfield is increasingly concerned about the ripple effects on children’s mental health and well-being, but sees room for hope: “With the rising tide of hate that’s taking place – flag vandalization in schools, bullying, unsafe washrooms – I am pleased to see Nova Scotians responding with much-needed support, and hope the rest of Canada will soon follow their lead.”

Naj Siritsky, professional practice and advocacy consultant at the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers (NSCSW), is also optimistic: “In an era where 2SLGBTQIA+ children’s safety and well-being is so often weaponized for political gain, it is truly heart-warming to see that in Nova Scotia, so many people are coming together to support and protect them,” says Siritsky. They continue, “The provincial government previously declared their intent to create a child and youth commission for Nova Scotia. We believe the government is sincere in its desire to protect children; we hope they will soon demonstrate this sincerity with decisive action, including committing to a budget and firm timeline for establishing this urgently needed resource and finally elevating the voices of vulnerable children and youth in the decision-making processes that profoundly affect their lives.”

Nova Scotia’s Guidelines for Supporting Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students document was last updated in 2014, and urgently needs updates to close unintended loopholes and reflect lessons learned, including recent legislation banning SOGIECE. The open letter also calls for first-voice 2SLGBTQIA+ representation on the Provincial Advisory Council on Education and other organizations within the Department of Education’s purview.

Members of the public who share the concerns raised by the open letter are encouraged to engage with their MLA, or virtually attend the NSCSW’s upcoming panel discussion event on July 31, “Protecting the well-being of 2SLGBTQIA+ kids,” which will feature several of the letter’s supporters as panelists.


About us:

The Nova Scotia College of Social Workers serves and protects Nova Scotians by effectively regulating the profession of social work. We work in solidarity with Nova Scotians to advocate for policies that improve social conditions, challenge injustice and value diversity.

For more information or to arrange interviews with letter co-signers, please contact: Rebecca Faria, communication coordinator for NSCSW (902-429-7799 ext. 227,