The transgender pride (L), pride (C) and Canada 150 pride flags fly following a flag raising ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, in 2017.; Credit: REUTERS/Chris Wattie

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ruling conservatives in the Canadian province of New Brunswick this week made changes to rules for schools as they sought to "recognise the role of parents" in questions around gender identity, but have faced pushback from within their own party.

The former policy, which dated from 2020, said teachers must respect all children's chosen names and pronouns, regardless of age, and that it should be up to the student whether their parents were informed.

On Thursday, provincial Education Minister Bill Hogan announced changes to that policy. From 1 July, children under 16 must have parental consent to alter their names and pronouns at school. Another change to the policy removes a reference to students being allowed to participate in activities "consistent with their gender identity". There is also a new requirement that gender-neutral washrooms be private.

New Brunswick's Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs said the policy change "recognised the role of parents," but he immediately ran into opposition from within his own party as eight lawmakers - including six Cabinet members - boycotted parliamentary business on Thursday.

In a joint statement, the eight lawmakers said they were expressing their "extreme disappointment in a lack of process and transparency".

Should those lawmakers pull their support for him, Higgs said it was possible there could be an early election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, attending an LGBTQ+ event in Toronto on Thursday, spoke out against the move.

"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," he said. "Trans kids need to feel safe, not targeted by politicians."

The New Brunswick debate reflects similar ones being held in the United States, where it has become a cultural wedge issue between the two main parties heading toward the 2024 presidential elections.

Indiana (in the US) has enacted a law requiring teachers to tell parents when students ask to be called by a new name or different pronoun. North Dakota has approved a law that lets public school teachers and state employees ignore a request to use a transgender person's preferred pronoun.