Source: Unsplash

Quebec is bucking the trend when it comes to gender-neutral washrooms in schools.

Newly built schools in Quebec will now be required to provide sex-based washrooms and change rooms instead of gender neutral options, as part of a new provincial government directive.

“I believe that our boys and girls in schools have the right to have a private space,” Education Minister Bernard Drainville said on Wednesday.

The debate began after a petition was launched last year to oppose a plan to make bathrooms gender neutral at D’Iberville high school in Rouyn-Noranda, Que.

“We don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Drainville at the time. “The school needs to rectify the situation.”

Drainville cited privacy as the basis for his decision, and worried about the possibility of boys teasing girls who were going through puberty. 

“A young girl 12, 13, 14 years old who is starting to have her period, for example, and who leaves a stall, and there are 13-, 14-year-old boys looking at her. Insults, sarcasm, humiliation. A scenario we don’t want, so I think we have to draw a line and the line, we’re drawing it now.”

Premier François Legault charged Family Minister Suzanne Roy with creating an advisory committee to study the issue and the committee’s recommendations are likely to be made public next year.

However, Drainville decided to make a decision in the interim period, instead of waiting.

“I announced last fall that we would move forward with this directive,” he said, adding that he expects the committee will arrive at the same conclusion.

The province’s new directive is effective immediately and stipulates that school service centres must “implement the means at their disposal so that all bathrooms and changing rooms that will be built or renovated in the future are gendered (boys/girls).”

According to the directive, schools which already have gender neutral bathrooms in place may keep them as well as schools which are 30% or more complete in their construction. 

“We are pragmatic people. We do not want to delay the progress of work on new schools,” said Drainville. 

The construction of individual bathrooms is also encouraged under the new directive and it’s advised that they be always accessible and strategically located to allow for proper supervision. 

“These provisions respect everyone’s rights,” said Drainville. “It’s a very respectful and balanced solution.”

However, LGBT advocacy group Family Coalition voiced their opposition to the minister’s stance.

“It’s not well balanced because it stigmatizes kids that are a bit different,” Mona Greenbaum, the group’s co-director told CBC News. “We know that from all sorts of research that it’s very harmful for young people to not have their gender identity affirmed.”