Protests and counter-protests were held across Canada on Wednesday over the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) curriculum in schools, with numbers ranging from several hundred to over 1,000 participants in some cities. Arrests were made in Ottawa, Halifax, Vancouver and Victoria, including three in Ottawa for “public incitement of hatred.”
Rallies organized by the “1 Million March 4 Children” group took aim at SOGI-inclusive education policies, which they termed “the sexualization and indoctrination of our children in schools.” The governments of New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have recently implemented policies that require parental permission for students’ formal names to be changed, echoing similar views found in the United States.
The Wednesday protests have been roundly criticized as being discriminatory towards LGBTQIA+ people, and for advancing a view of parental rights that prioritizes parents opposed to SOGI-inclusive education policies. Large crowds of counter-protesters formed to meet the “1 Million March” rallies, including a march led by NDP Party leader Jagmeet Singh.
Politicians, public figures, and education boards across the country released statements condemning the protests as being hateful and permissive of violence against LGBTQIA+ people. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on X (formerly Twitter) “We strongly condemn this hate and its manifestations, and we stand united in support of 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians across the country – you are valid and you are valued.” Ottawa mayor Mark Sutcliffe, whose city saw the largest clash of protests in Canada, stated that “the protests taking place today will only cause harm to youth who are looking for our support and acceptance.”
More broadly, the rise in movements opposing SOGI curriculums mirrors a worldwide rise in laws targeting LGBTQIA+ people, notably including “Don’t Say Gay” laws in US states such as Florida and bans on transgender youths in sports. Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBTQIA+ rights group, declared a state of emergency for LGBTQIA+ people in the US earlier this year, and reported that 32 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals were killed in the US in 2022.
While Canada has traditionally been considered one of the safest countries in the world for LGBTQIA+ people, it has not been immune to the growth of anti-LGBTQIA+ policies and sentiments seen south of the border and elsewhere. Statistics Canada recently reported that while Canada’s LGBTQIA+ population is growing, the number of anti-LBGTQIA+ crimes has risen as well.