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Calgary teens may face street harassment fines for counter-protesting anti-LGBTQ group

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Calgary teens may face street harassment fines for counter-protesting anti-LGBTQ group
WATCH: A Calgary family is speaking out after they feel the street harassment bylaw wasn't applied fairly. It stems from a protest organized by a religious group against inclusive change rooms at a city pool. As Jill Croteau reports, they say defending their basic human rights may have exposed them to hefty fines – Feb 20, 2023

An intense interaction between allies and members of the LGBTQ community and a religious group got heated and loud according to attendees.

The tensions and volume escalated on the afternoon of Feb. 12 outside the Canyon Meadows pool.

Bylaw and Calgary police officers said neighbourhood complaints and overall concern had police crews respond.

Lou, a woman who Global News has agreed not to use her real name, was in the middle of the protests. She is an ally and is concerned about retaliation if her real name is published.

“Everybody was in each other’s faces and it started getting heated and there were some uncomfortable moments,” Lou told Global News.

“They were protesting against the city’s inclusive change room policy that protects trans and non-binary individuals and we were protecting the LGBTQ community.”

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Her two sons, James and Joseph — who Global News also chose not to use their real names for safety reasons — said they were subject to hate-fueled speech.

James and Joseph — who Global News has chosen not to identify by their real names for safety reasons — said they were subject to hate-fueled speech following a counter-protest over LGBTQ rights at the Canyon Meadows pool on Feb. 12, 2023. Jill Croteau, Global News

“The main pastor called my children, devil ‘f’ slurs to their faces, my teenaged children,” Lou added.

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However Lou said, it’s what happened moments after it was over that has her family even more frustrated.

“Within half a block we were pulled over by two police cars and a bylaw van,” Lou said.

She said she was told she was pulled over for a burned-out tail light but the bylaw officer started writing up two tickets. One for excessive noise because of an amplification device used and another was under the street harassment bylaw.

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“The fines hold no meaning to me, they are fines for something we don’t believe we did anything wrong,” James said.

After a lengthy discussion with police and bylaw, law enforcement officials decided to temporarily hold off on the fines for both James and Joseph until further investigation.

Ryan Pleckaitis with the City of Calgary community standards division said their officers can’t pick sides.

“We have to apply any bylaw fairly and impartially,” Pleckaitis explained.

“If you’re harassing somebody based on gender identity so too is harassing someone based on religious beliefs and we need to step away from the message and look at what our bylaw says and the evidence in front of us and make a determination whether to move forward with charges.”

Two tickets were issued for the excessive noise to the protesters, though the street harassment fines remain under consideration.

“We are reviewing information collected and we will be meeting with our law department to review evidence and will be making a decision whether to move forward with tickets,” Pleckaitis said.

“It’s about basic human rights and it doesn’t make me a good ally if I get one threat and I stop showing up — I am going to keep going,” Lou said.

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