Supporters of the 1 Million March 4 Children were met by a large counter-protest at Prince Rupert City Hall today, Sept. 20.
The nation-wide protests argued that sexual orientations and gender identities (SOGI) education, used in schools across the province since 2016, subject children to disturbing and vulgar content.
Counter-protest organizer Emma Robinson said she went to city hall to show support for Prince Rupert’s trans community, many of whom struggled with access to support while they attended school.
“We’re here to to show our support for the trans and LGBTQ community many of whom, many people gathered here, are part of that community,” she said. “We know… that mental health outcomes for trans kids are worse than for the general population of Canadian kids for suicide rates and suicide attempts.”
While protester Pamela Rouse Vanderwiel acknowledged the difficulties LGBTQ+ children have faced in the past with B.C.’s school system, she argued elementary school children should not be taught with SOGI guidelines, which she does not consider age-appropriate.
“We understand how they feel and how hard they had to fight for that identity when when they did in high school that cruelty was cruel,” she said. “What is the purpose of teaching them gender ideology when they’re only in grades one, two and three when they’re learning to play in mud puddles and they’re learning about flowers.”
Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach found the anti-SOGI march disturbing and offered his support to LGBTQ+ children in the Northwest.
“It’s deeply troubling to see the rise of anti-trans hate across Canada,” he said. “I want LGBTQ+ youth in our region to know I’ve got their backs, and that we’ll keep working to ensure they’re safe and their rights are respected.”
North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice also weighed in on the controversial situation, defending B.C.’s use of SOGI education. She also expressed her concern towards what she viewed as a rise of anti-trans sentiment across the country.
“For students to receive their best education, they need to feel safe and accepted at school, and a SOGI education creates an inclusive environment for all,” she said. “These protests are disguised as protecting children from harm, when in fact, they are a way of proliferating hate and creating undue harm to children.”
Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond urged Rupertites to remain civil and calm while exercising their democratic right to free speech. He also urged protesters and counter-protesters to keep vulnerable people in mind.
“Anticipating the planned march, I encourage everyone to be mindful of the most vulnerable amongst us; the quiet ones who may not speak up but may be strongly affected,” he said. “Your council and I will always stand with them.”
Some supporters of the 1 Million March for Children include the Freedom Convoy of 2022, Hugs Over Masks and Canadian Democracy Defense Association, according to the march’s official website.