Duelling protests over gender identity in schools as thousands pack Queen’s Park

Thousands gathered at Queen's Park today in dueling protests over gender identity policies in schools. Shauna Hunt reports.

It is a day of duelling demonstrations across the country as thousands representing two sides of a gender identity in schools debate gathered in downtown Toronto on Wednesday morning.

Members of the group ‘1-Million-March-4-Children’ have planned gatherings across Canada and say rally participants are “standing together against gender ideology in schools.”

The group is in favour of the elimination of any gender identity or sexual expression curriculum.

Demonstrations are being staged at various locations across the country, including at Queen’s Park in Toronto and city halls in Milton and Mississauga.

Members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and others opposed to the protests have staged counter-protests in response.

In Toronto, Pflag and their supporters gathered in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood and walked over to Queen’s Park as the ‘1-Million-March-4-Children’ protest kicked off around 9 a.m.

The Pflag organization offers support to Canadians dealing with issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

“We are standing for our human rights, for our most vulnerable children,” said Reverend Dr. Cheri DiNovo, Minister at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice, and the Arts. “We are reacting to a protest that wants to take away those rights.”

A pro-trans right counter demonstrator stands in front of protesters opposed to gender diversity in schools during a rally in Toronto, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. The protest was one of many across Canada, organized by “1MillionMarch4Children”, as they protest against so-called “gender ideology” being taught in schools. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The two groups at Queen’s Park were initially segregated, with hundreds of protesters on the north lawn and hundreds of counter-protesters on the south lawn. Both groups made their way to the north lawn as the morning progressed and were separated by a divide created by Toronto police officers on their bicycles.

The crowd on both sides had largely fizzled in the area by the early afternoon.

GTA school boards flying Pride flags in response

In response to the demonstrations and in support of the counter-protesters, the public school boards in Toronto, Peel, Halton and Durham have released statements and raised Pride flags at all of their offices on Tuesday. The boards plan to fly the flags for the rest of the week.

“There are demonstrations scheduled to take place in our city this week which, in some past cases, have fostered inflammatory, transphobic, and hateful behaviours against members of 2SLGBTQ+ communities,” reads a statement from Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

“Ahead of these planned demonstrations, we want to make it unequivocally clear that TDSB stands with our trans, Two-Spirit and non-binary students, staff and families, and we support everyone’s human rights and expression of gender.”

Peel District School Board (PDSB) echoed those sentiments, saying in a statement that “harassment, discrimination and hate have no place in the PDSB.”

63 counter-protests planned across Canada

Meanwhile, Sarah Worthman, a 2SLGBTQ+ advocate who is co-organizing at least 63 counter-protests across the country, says Canadians need to stand up for the community outside of Pride events.

British Columbia’s human rights commissioner, Kasari Govender, called the anti-2SLGBTQ+ marches “hate-fuelled.”

She says while peaceful demonstration protects democracy and generates debate, the human rights of the community are “not up for debate.”

Earlier this year, provincial governments in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick made moves to require parental consent when children under 16 want to use different names or pronouns at school.

Human rights groups have argued and expressed concern that the changes could result in outing transgender kids to parents who don’t accept them.

With files from The Canadian Press

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