Hundreds of protestors and counterprotesters clashed in downtown Montreal on Wednesday at the “1 Million March 4 Children” demonstration that took place in cities across the country.
Montreal police said no arrests or injuries were reported despite the heated exchanges between groups that were for and against gender identity programs in Canadian schools.
The march took place in front of Quebec Premier François Legault’s office near the McGill University gates on Sherbrooke Street West. Demonstrators held up signs that read “Protect trans kids,” “Then they came for the trans kids,” and “Stop disguising your hate as concern.”
Other posters countered with “Keep the innocence,” “Parents know better,” and “Leave our kids alone.”
Official event communications created by the group calling itself “1 Million March 4 Children” said participants “believe in safeguarding children from gender ideology teachings, sexual indoctrination and exposure to explicit sexual content.”
The group’s website says it is “uniting diverse backgrounds and faiths to advocate for the elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools. Together, we stand united to safeguard the well-being and innocence of our children.”
It goes on to say that students were encouraged to participate in a nationwide school walkout on Wednesday.
Counterprotesters in Montreal argued religious beliefs and American influence are fuelling hate and exclusion.
“We want to send a message that there is no space for hate across Canada,” said counterprotest organizer Celeste Trianon. “We have historically been one of the safest countries in the world for LGBTQ2 people and we want to make sure that continues.”
Quebec’s political class has been faced with questions about gender identity in schools recently after a Montreal school received threats after a nonbinary teacher asked to use the honorific Mx — pronounced Miks — and a school in the province’s northwest planned to provide gender-neutral bathrooms to students for the 2024-25 school year.
Quebec’s education minister Bernard Drainville said he wouldn’t convene a legislative committee on gender identity because he said doing so would expose the sensitive issue to political exploitation. Instead, he hopes to assemble an expert task force to look into questions of gender.
That came after Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon called on the government to hold legislative hearings to debate the recent controversies, saying schools risk being influenced by “radical left” ideas.
Wednesday’s nationwide protests were also linked to policies across the country, including in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, that require young people to get parental consent before teachers can use their preferred first names and pronouns.
“Let me make one thing very clear: Transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia have no place in this country.”
Some advocates say those policies are a violation of children’s rights and that transgender youth should not be outed to their parents by teachers.
As of late Wednesday evening neither Legault nor Drainville released statements in reaction to the rallies. Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante did so however, along with several other provincial and federal politicians including Prime Minister Trudeau, condemning the events.
“Let me make one thing very clear: Transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia have no place in this country,” Trudeau wrote. “We strongly condemn this hate and its manifestations.”
Protests were held across Canada on Wednesday, including Ottawa, where thousands of people faced off in front of Parliament Hill.
Montreal police said the protests were over by 2:15 p.m. and that officers had been deployed to the area to ensure there were no physical confrontations between the opposing groups.
— With files from The Canadian Press, Annabelle Olivier and Brayden Jagger Haines, Global News
- A year ago, they had nowhere to live. Now they’ve won the lottery and are giving back
- Lower bond yields could soon mean cheaper mortgages. Here’s why
- ‘Heartbreaking’: A Canadian family’s fight to improve Alzheimer’s research for women
- Oshawa’s great kangaroo mystery: Hunt underway for marsupial no one says is missing