More than 1,000 protesters gathered outside the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) in London, Ontario on Wednesday to denounce school policies on gender identity.
The “1MillionMarch4Children” sparked protests across the country on September 20, with organizer Our Duty Canada saying it was “advocating for the elimination of the curriculum on s****l orientation and gender identity (SOGI), pronouns, gender ideology and mixed toilets in schools. .”
Gender identity in education made headlines earlier this year when Ontario Premier Doug Ford accused school boards of indoctrinating students.
His comments follow pronoun policies adopted by New Brunswick and Saskatchewan that require parental consent for students under the age of 16 who wish to change their first name and/or pronoun at school.
While the Prime Minister insisted that parents should be informed of their child’s gender identity, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said last month that he believed “parents must be fully involved” if their child chooses to use a different gender pronoun in schools.
The protests also tie into policies across the country, including in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, that require young people to get consent from their parents before teachers can use their preferred first and pronouns.
Protesters in London also condemned the use of some “s****lly explicit material” and inappropriate resources within schools.
Concerned Parents Association of London and Area (CPAL) attendee and volunteer Lorraine Kane said she was championing parents’ concerns.
“We both have the right to our opinions,” she said. “They think we’re transphobic, but we’re not. We just care about education and what is taught to our children. That’s the most important thing.
In 2018, Ford also ordered his education minister to repeal the “current inappropriate s*x education curriculum” and replace it with a new “age-appropriate” version after consultation.
However, when the new s*x education system was announced, many experts said it was identical to the version introduced by the former Liberal government.
As protesters and counter-protesters gathered on both sides of Dundas Street East, resident Patti Kellar said “this is not about hate.”
“We are not haters or right-wing extremists. We just want to protect our children and make sure they receive age-appropriate material when it comes to s****l topics,” she said.
Kellar, who has worked in the education system for nearly 40 years, believes the SOGI program should be removed from schools.
“Confusing children at this age is absolutely abuse,” she said. “It’s not going to help them, it’s just going to make things harder, and they’re already living in a world that’s hard enough to live in as it is.”
But across the street, counter-protests took place in response, with activists calling the marches a “hate campaign” aimed at denying and pushing back the rights of Canadians who are members of the LGBTQ2+ community.
The Ontario Federation of Labor (OFL) said in a statement earlier this week that affiliated unions, as well as labor councils, would join community organizations to plan events in “solidarity and support of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community “.
“Our message today [Wednesday] it’s about protecting trans youth,” local organizer Sister Patricia told PKBNEWS. “The Thames Valley District School Board needs our support, like all school boards, to keep our schools safe.
Patricia, who is also the founder of the Drag Storytime Guardians group, highlighted the importance of the SOGI program to the LGBTQ2 community.
“The name they want to give themselves is an important part of their life [and] it is an important part of all children’s lives; being able to talk openly about what’s going on in their minds, like what they might be feeling,” she said. “Home is not the safest place, so we try to support them in that way.
“We may not all be Guardians, but we are all standing guard here today,” she added.
Londoner Elizabeth Dodman echoed similar sentiments, saying she was “disheartened to see so much anti-LGBTQ rhetoric seeping into our national conversations.”
“There are a lot of real issues that we could be tackling and putting energy into, but instead we’re hara*sing kids who just want to be able to exist safely,” she said.
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“Let’s look at other real issues facing our communities, like mental health care for the general population, how we address the climate crisis or food insecurity… There are so many big topics around the table which should divert our attention. to hurt young people.
Dodman added that “the world is full of different people and they all deserve to be treated with respect.”
“It’s normal for children to think about who they are [and] explore who they are, that’s part of growing up,” she said. “But we need to make sure the world they grow up in is safe and doesn’t burn under their feet.” So sometimes we need to step up; This is the role of the elderly person.
Speaking to PKBNEWS on Wednesday, Purveen Skinner, TVDSB’s superintendent of equity, said they were “extremely disappointed and devastated by what happened outside of the board office.”
“We want to reiterate to all communities, but in particular to (the) LGBTQ2+ community that we are here to support and that we stand in unwavering solidarity with them today and every day,” she said.
Before the protests, Thames Valley confirmed in an email to PKBNEWS that a message was sent to staff working at the council office on Wednesday to work remotely, saying they were “preparing for the worst.” [but] hope for the best.”
Thames Valley sent the following statement to students, staff and families following the protests:
We recognize that today [Wednesday] is a difficult and painful day for many, particularly for the 2SLGTBQIA+ community in Thames Valley and across the country. We do not support the harmful rhetoric and threats of violence used by some protesters during today’s demonstrations.
We stand in unwavering solidarity with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community today and every day.
The safety and wellbeing of all Thames Valley students and staff remains our top priority. Mental health supports are available in schools and workplaces for all students and staff.
Thames Valley has a legal and moral responsibility to promote equity, inclusion and human rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Let us be clear: hate has no place in Thames Valley schools or workplaces.
According to Statistics Canada, police-reported hate crimes based on s****l orientation increased by almost 60% between 2019 and 2021.
During the protest, London police had a large presence at the scene, with around 80 officers working to keep the peace. No reported arrests have been made at the time of publication.
“We understand that those present may have opposing views and our officers will enforce the law in a neutral manner,” said Const. » Matthew Dawson told PKBNEWS.
Coming back to Kane, she said that “ultimately it is all about the children and the need to ensure that an effective learning environment is provided for all children.”
– with files from Jacquelyn LeBel of PKBNEWS and La Presse Canadienne.