Gender identity in schools sparks protest and counter protest
Hundreds gathered outside Sarnia city hall and marched peacefully through the downtown Wednesday morning, voicing strong opinions about how gender identity is taught in Canadian schools.
About 100 of the demonstrators, roughly half, waved signs protesting what they called unnecessary gender ideology teachings, sexual indoctrination and exposure to explicit sexual content.
Another 100 staged a counter protest to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ individuals, fighting for their right to privacy and the right to not always involve parents in decisions related to sexual orientation.
“Our freedom is in jeopardy here,” said Jim Canie who participated in the Sarnia march to mirror an estimated 80 or more dubbed “1 Million March 4 Children” held simultaneously nationwide.
“This is just part of the big picture,” Canie said. “The push for vaccines, wearing masks, and this are all part of the unreasonable things being pushed on our children.”
The march was spirited but did not devolve into one-on-one shouting or any physical altercations.
Instead, Canie’s group rallied around a series of speakers on the front lawn of city hall, nearly drowned out by the bullhorn and music coming from the counter protesters on the other side of the lawn.
“It’s really important that our queer and trans youth know that they are supported and adults are here to back them up,” said Crystal Fach, founder and executive director of Diversity Ed and organizer of Sarnia’s counter protest.
“The protesters from the 1 Million March 4 Children are trying to roll back human rights for trans people and queer kids in school by forcibly having them outed at school and challenging the curriculum that has been developed by scientists and teachers.
“We want them to see that they have adults who are trying to protect their human rights.”
Several metres away, Shiloh Ministry pastor Greg Mentley from Wallaceburg, also used a bullhorn to rally the 1 Million March 4 Children supporters.
“We have the right to stand up for our opinions as well,” he said. “It’s time for a movement, not just here but everywhere you go around the world…and be motivated by love.”
Mentley said those who believe that gender ideology should be taught at home or by the church – not at school – have been silent for too long.
“That’s what’s brought this on,” he said. “There are a lot of people afraid of losing their jobs but…we can’t have laws that say you can’t talk about what we believe in.”
Fach said there were protesters from Mentley’s side of the lawn who angrily demanded that they leave with their demonstrators.
“They want to have their turn and that’s not what this is about,” they said. “This is about staying here and drowning out the hate.”
The protests and counter protests across Canada are related to school policies – including in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick – that require youth to get parental consent before teachers can use their preferred first names and pronouns.
In larger centres like Toronto and Ottawa, Wednesday’s protest and counter protest attracted one thousand or more people who were separated by police.
In Sarnia, approximately 200 people demonstrated, with numbers evenly split on the two sides. No obvious police presence was visible.