Protests and counter-protests involving Canada’s trans and LGBTQ+ communities and the way topics of gender and s****lity are covered in schools took place across the country on Wednesday, including several in the Edmonton area.
A group called “1MillionMarch4Children” says rally attendees are “uniting against gender ideology in schools,” which refers to s****l orientation and gender identity curriculum taught in the city’s public schools. British Columbia.
“I would like the ATA (Alberta Teachers’ Association) to know that we are not going to tolerate their indoctrination. We are the parents of children who have been affected and damaged,” said protester Lilo Forsyth, a mother of four.
In response, LGBTQ+ allies and supporters showed up to counter-protest at gathering places, like the ATA headquarters in Edmonton.
“I was a teacher and I’m openly queer,” Kit Etcheverry said. “I grew up in a household where I wasn’t able to be myself until I was in my thirties and it’s very important that all children know that there are people who love and support them.
“Most of the parents, most of the families, have been great. It’s a minority,” Etcheverry said of the march. “And I want every student, every family, every person to know that they are loved…for who they are – exactly who they are.” »
Benita Pedersen is the coordinator of 1MillionMarch4Children in Edmonton. She is a local activist known for her involvement in the right-wing Take Back Alberta movement, a movement she recently said she has distanced herself from.
She said protesters were concerned about what was happening in schools.
“Parents are worried about the secrecy that reigns in schools. Sometimes teachers do not share with parents what is happening with their children.
“For some reason, schools are planting seeds in young kids’ minds to start thinking about transgender and that’s not okay,” Pedersen said.
She said Wednesday’s march was not about hatred or discrimination.
“We are not opposed to people who identify as a certain community. What we are opposed to is introducing young children to adult concepts.
Many demonstrators held signs referring to “SOGI”.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity,” Pedersen explained. “This is integrated into various subjects in schools…and this information teaches young children concepts of s****lity and gender ideology that are not appropriate.”
Rebecca Lippiatt, who was part of the counter-protest, said there is a lot of misinformation about what is being taught.
“I want people to ask questions about what the program is like. I want people to Google the program because it’s online and they’re allowed to see what it’s about.
“My biggest concern… What people are told about what happens in schools is not what happens in schools, and if they bothered to ask teachers, they would know that’s not true,” Lippiatt said.
ATA President says parent voice is important and included.
“We have one piece of legislation called the Education Act and another piece of legislation called the Educational Choice Act,” Jason Schilling said. “Parents’ voices are anchored in these legislative texts. They already have this right.
“But they have no right to spread hatred and discrimination against students who attend our public schools,” he added.
“It seems very transphobic and homophobic too. This is aimed at a marginalized part of our community and it is unfortunate that they are here to spread this message of hate. That’s why we have all these people here today to resist.
“We are seeing an increased level of hatred towards s****lly diverse people across Canada,” Schilling said. “Our overall approach to this is that we are here to ensure that our students are in safe and caring schools. »
In a statement, the Edmonton Police Service said officers would be present at protests to ensure public safety and reduce traffic.
“While police officers are sworn to uphold the Criminal Code, they are also sworn to respect the rights of Canadians enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including freedom of peaceful a*sembly and expression. Enforcing both sets of laws can be a tricky task, but the EPS always ensures that a balance is struck.
“EPS takes hate crimes and incidents seriously and supports our community’s right to live free from hate. If offensive symbols appear and/or hate incidents occur during an event or protest, the police will investigate whether the incident meets the threshold for the hate provisions set out in the Criminal Code of Canada and will lay charges, if applicable. In these situations, officers will seek legal advice and consult with the EPS Hate Crimes Unit to determine if charges are possible.
Several school boards and schools also sent letters to families before the protests. Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi also released a statement regarding the protests.
“I strongly oppose any form of discrimination, hatred or intolerance, and defend the safety and well-being of all young people,” he said.
“The protest taking place (Wednesday), presented as protecting our children, will in reality cause enormous harm to our 2SLGBTQIA+ young people, their families and allies. These views do not reflect Edmonton’s values of diversity, inclusion, compa*sion and understanding.
“All rights protected by the Charter must be respected and defended by everyone. As Mayor, I stand in solidarity with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and encourage all Edmontonians to do the same. Every person, regardless of their s****l orientation or gender identity, deserves respect, dignity and the freedom to be who they are.
“If you are a queer Edmontonian or an ally, please know that you are supported,” Sohi wrote.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared a message regarding the protests on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter:
“Let me be very clear: transphobia, homophobia and biphobia have no place in this country. We strongly condemn this hatred and its manifestations, and we are united in supporting 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians across the country – you are valid and valued.
Sarah Worthman, an LGBTQ+ activist who has helped organize at least 63 counter-protests across the country, said Canadians must stand up for the community outside of Pride events.
“Ally is a verb,” she said, calling on her supporters to show solidarity with LGBTQ+ people who are increasingly the subject of hatred and political debate by participating in No Space for Hate events.
“Doing these little things shows that there is a social pushback,” she said.
With files from The Canadian Press