His stance on trans rights has split his government and his party and sparked public uproar and outrage.

This could easily be said of Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s first minister. But it also rings true of Blaine Higgs, premier of New Brunswick, one of Canada’s Maritime provinces.

The two leaders are arguably on opposite fronts of global culture wars over how to treat people who do not identify with their birth gender. 

And this has thrust both of them in to conflict on the issue with their respective sovereign state governments, in London and Ottawa.

Today the Herald looks across the Atlantic at a blazing controversy that might just have resonances for our politics

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But, first, a quick recap on what is happening in Scotland.

Most readers will already know where Yousaf stands on trans rights. The first minister is determined to defend Holyrood legislation that was supposed to make it easier for people to change their gender in paperwork

His favoured Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which allowed trans people to “self-ID” without a diagnosis of gender dysphoria was effectively vetoed by the UK Government earlier this year. 

Conservative Scotland Secretary Alister Jack said having different gender ID regimes north and south of the border would create “significant complications”.

Later this month lawyers representing Yousaf’s SNP-led administration will go to the Supreme Court to try to unblock the law. 

The Herald:

And all this while the policy agenda behind the legislation continues to rile some on his own back benches and generate a lot of heat - and sometimes hate - outside mainstream politics.

The self-ID saga - coupled with headlines about the convicted rapist Isla Bryson being locked up in a women’s prison - has made Scotland something of a global cynosure for trans issues.

The world has been watching us. But have we been keeping enough track of how other nations and jurisdictions handle similar challenges? Not so much.

Which is a shame because we are far from the only place wrestling with various trans questions, including constitutional ones.

Take New Brunswick or NB.  Here the approach of Higgs, the province’s right-leaning premier, is almost the mirror opposite of Yousaf’s. 

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The controversy in his province is, sort of, about self-ID,  not about whether adults can decide their gender for documents but whether under-16s can determine how they are addressed in school.

This story might take a little time to tell. But it began back in May when Higgs, a 69-year-old former oil executive, amended the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity framework for local public schools. 

This 2020 document, better known as Policy 713, had required teachers to informally respect students’ chosen pronouns or names, whether their parents agreed or not. 

Higgs’ administration effectively reversed this position. Now educators can only address under-16s the way their mothers, fathers or other guardians demand.

The premier had radically revised the balance of rights between parents and children. 

The Herald:

And he had done so, said his many critics, that may endanger young people by either forcing then “out” - or compelling them to live what they see as a lie.

“Parents are the foundation of our society; families are the foundation of our society,” Higgs said when trying to explain the new Policy 713. “And what we’re seeing is that erosion of the family role in children’s upbringing.”

Higgs went further, implying that teachers’ acceptance of informal names and pronouns was encouraging transgenderism. The premier suggested that gender dysphoria was “trendy”. 

This last remark sparked widespread condemnation from trans, children’s and human rights groups, professional teachers and members of his own government. 

One cabinet minister walked out of the legislature when he made the claim.

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Critics of Higgs were reported widely and comprehensively in mainstream TV, radio and newspapers. 

One voice aired was that Nicki Lyons-MacFarlane. a non-binary New Brunswicker who chairs a group supporting young people in the province’s capital Fredericton.

“To call it ‘popular and trendy’…..is really, really disrespectful and minimises what we go through as part of the trans community,” they told Global News TV.

Teachers focused more on their duty of care to their students. The safety of children, many argued, trumped the rights of parents: adults do not own their kids.

New Brunswick’s child and youth advocate - the rough equivalent of Scotland’s children’s commissioner - opposed changes to Policy 713 in a detailed report. 

Kelly Lamrock thinks informally calling young people what they want to be called is a “simple courtesy”. But he warned of some of the practical consequences of the policy change.

Lamrock said the new document was “shoddy” and vaguely worded and would be  “chaotic in schools”. This opened the way for discrimination - because a school has to find out if a child is changing their nickname because of gender identity.

The Herald: Liberal leader Justin Trudeau stands on stage at the Liberal party headquarters in Montreal.

“If Terrance wants to be called by a nickname, it would be absurd to ask teachers to agree to use Terry but not Terri because of perceptions about the motivation," he said.

"It's perfectly legitimate to give teachers guidance as to when parents should be notified. That is perfectly fair," he told reporters. “But you can't say we need rules ... for students wrestling with gender identity, but not for any other personal issue.

"What about straight students who might be dating or sexually active? What about if a student, whose parents are devout Muslim, decides she doesn't want to wear the hijab at school even though her parents wish she would?”

Some school authorities appear to be revolting over the rule changes. Some trans young people said they were anxious about going back to school this month.

Trudeau has already stepped in to the row. “Trans kids need to feel safe, not targeted by politicians,” he said back in June. “Far-right political actors are trying to outdo themselves with the types of cruelty and isolation they can inflict on these already vulnerable people. Right now, trans kids in New Brunswick are being told they don’t have the right to be their true selves, that they need to ask permission.”

Suddenly, as in Scotland, a local row became a federal one about the role and rights of parents - and where decisions on such issues should be made.

Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accused Trudeau of butting in to NB politics. “The prime minister has no business in decisions that should rest with provinces and parents," the Tory said.

"So my message to Justin Trudeau is: ‘Butt out and let provinces run schools and let parents raise kids’.” 

An ally of Trudeau - his Labour minister Seamus O’Regan - tweeted in response. “Not all parents are accepting,” he said. “Not all homes are safe. Schools can be. Schools should be.”

So what does the public think? National polling in Canada suggests that despite the high profile professional backlash against the new Policy 713 a majority lean towards Higgs rather than Trudeau on the issue. Some 57% in one survey said parents should be told if children are changing gender. Only 18% said they should not.

Provincial conservatives see a new battle ground.

Saskatchewan this summer followed NB. And, perhaps suggesting a whole new fault line in federal politics, Canada’s biggest province, Ontario, last week suggested it would do so too. Cue concerns of a major showdown, just as in Scotland.