All across the country, rallies were held for and against gender identity and sexual orientation curriculums in schools.
That included Edmonton, where Saturday afternoon Whyte Ave. became the site of duelling protests.
People on the south side of the street had supporters from a group that held protests all throughout Canada, 1 Million March 4 Children. They say they’re against having SOGI 123, sexual orientation and gender identity, program in schools.
“They’re teaching young kids to doubt their own gender and exposing young kids to concepts of sexuality that are too mature, so we need to put a stop to this programming,” said Benita Pedersen.
On the other side of the street was a group counter-protesting, who support LGBTQ2 education in schools and wanted to show solidarity.
“They’re protesting the mentioning of the words gay, the words trans, and any education in grade school that is talking about the existence of LGBT people. We believe that’s part of a campaign to demonize and eradicate LGBT people,” said Nikita Dabrowski.
Another point of contention, was the Parents’ Bill of Rights recently passed in Saskatchewan which requires parental consent if a youth under the age of 16 wants to be referred to by a different name or pronoun at school.
“I believe that parents need to be a very active part in their children’s education and the parents need to be consulted and engaged in it. There are certain things that shouldn’t be taught to children with parental consent,” Pedersen said.
The United Conservative Party will debate a similar policy to Saskatchewan’s, on requiring parental consent for a student’s preferred name and pronouns at their annual convention next month. However, Pedersen says she wants the Alberta government to go further with it.
“I also like the idea of even stronger policies with regards to healthy boundaries for kids,” she said.
Counter-protestors say if this eventually comes in Alberta, it could do more harm than good. Dabrowski says a decision like that would mean things are going in the wrong direction for LGBTQ2 people.
“We believe that kids should be able to use the pronouns that they want to use. We believe that everybody deserves to have their own identity and have that protected,” said Dabrowski.
“We are concerned that kids who are in schools and have their pronouns or their identity reported to parents, could be at risk of being kicked out of their homes or abused by their parents because not all are accepting of LGBT.”
Protestors Saturday say the duelling rallies could eventually lead to further conversation on both sides.
“What’s great about today is we’re hearing each other voices so they get to read our signs and hear our messages and we get to read their signs,” Pedersen said.