Rallies and counter-protests about school policies on gender identity were held outside the B.C. legislature and at other locations across Canada on Wednesday (Sept. 20) – with the Victoria Police Department ending up asking people to vacate the area because the protests had become “unsafe.”
The organizers of the initial event called themselves 1 Million March 4 Children and say they are “advocating for the elimination of the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.”
But a large number of counter-protesters gathered outside the legislature in solidarity with 2LGBTQ2SAI+ communities and in support of SOGI curriculum – vastly outnumbering the anti-SOGI group. VicPD estimated the total crowd at approximately 2,500 people.
“I’m so proud of Victoria for coming out in droves to counter this protest,” said Jane Constable, a counter-protester from Saanich. “I’m a mother, and I think what’s going on today is saddening. We far outnumber the protest. It’s so important for us to come out to counter this message.”
The Victoria Police Department said in a news release at 2:23 p.m. that the area had become “unsafe” and asked people to leave and avoid coming to the legislature.
“Two arrests have been made and the organizers of the planned demonstration have left the area,” said VicPD in the release. “VicPD and Public Safety Unit officers will remain in the area until the crowd has dispersed. The planned temporary road closures will not occur. VicPD supports everyone’s right to safe, peaceful and lawful protest, and asks that all citizens respect this right. Dangerous or unlawful activity will continue to be met with de-escalation and enforcement.”
Following escalating tensions at a large demonstration in front of the BC Legislature today, with approximately 2,500 people in attendance, VicPD Officers are asking participants to leave, and for others to avoid the area.
— Victoria Police (@vicpdcanada) September 20, 2023
According to Statistics Canada, of the nearly 30.5 million people in Canada aged 15 and older living in a private household in May 2021, 100,815 were transgender (59,460) or non-binary (41,355).
“I came here to support the transgender community and my friend’s children who are in the community,” said Jason Balaam, a counter-protester from Central Saanich. “I have no desire to see schools go back to the way they were in the ’70s and ’80s when it was dangerous for children. I hope those who walked by us today see that love is winning. Love is a force that can’t be stopped.”
New Brunswick’s government has restricted the rights of children under the age of 16 to use their preferred first names or pronouns at school.
“Without hesitation, I denounce threats, hate and violence against 2SLGBTQIA+ communities,” Premier David Eby said in a letter to B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Clint Johnston.
Eby also addressed students.
“We may not have met. I may not know your name and I may not know your favourite music, but I want you to know this: I accept you for who you are in every way. My job as premier is to ensure you all have a safe learning environment, so you can pursue your dreams.”
– With files from Wolf Depner