Planned anti-LGBTQ+ demonstrations in Kamloops, Okanagan face counter protests | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Planned anti-LGBTQ+ demonstrations in Kamloops, Okanagan face counter protests

Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Kelowna Pride Society

People opposed to a school policy that teaches gender and sexuality to children are holding protests in cities throughout the Thompson-Okanagan region tomorrow.

The events are part of the controversial 1 Million March 4 Children protests taking place across Canada tomorrow, Sept. 20. Protests are planned in Kamloops, Salmon Arm, Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton.

On its website, the group states it's “advocating for the elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.”

According to the BC government website, SOGI is “an inclusive term that applies to everyone, whether they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, heterosexual or cisgender.”

The province states that including SOGI in school codes of conduct and anti-bullying policies “improves the school climate for LGBTQ and heterosexual students by reducing discrimination and harassment.”

The Million March has faced massive opposition from the LQBTQ+ community online, with queer activists organizing counter protests across the country. Many people have taken to social media to call out the protestors for being transphobic and part of a right-wing fascist initiative.

Counter protests are set to take place in Kelowna, Vernon, and Kamloops.

On its Facebook page, the Million March has also called for teachers and children to join the protest by walking out of school.

The Vernon Teacher’s Association released a statement this week stating their “unwavering dedication to maintaining schools as safe, welcoming, and inclusive spaces for all."

“The concerning surge of homophobia and transphobia sweeping across Canada has no place in our communities, particularly within the walls of our educational institutions,” association president David Mackenzie said in the statement. “Promoting Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI)-inclusive resources should not be a subject of controversy. Rather, it is a matter of ensuring that all students and their families find themselves represented in educational materials.”

Vernon's Trinity United Church has also issued a statement outlining its support for SOGI inclusive education. 

“Many messages are floating around right now that concern some parents and other community members. Is SOGI-inclusive education harming our children? Does it promote sexualized behaviour? Does it push boys to become girls and girls to become boys?” retired educator and a member of Trinity United Barry Dorval said in the statement.

“SOGI 123 lessons don’t teach students how to live as an LGBTQ+ person. What they do teach is that LGBTQ+ people are a part of our community, and the learning activities reinforce the importance of schools being a safe, respectful, welcoming space for all students, including those who are gay or who choose to transition,” Dorval said.

The Kamloops-Thompson school district has also shared a statement in support of its LGBTQ+ students. 

"We have conduct and anti-bullying procedures that address protected grounds of discrimination under the Human Rights Code," school district board chair Heather Grieve said. "In those procedures, we take steps to address anyone whose behaviour jeopardizes the safe, caring, and welcoming environments of our schools and district facilities. We do not support anyone who articulates perspectives that are discriminatory or any acts that jeopardize safe and caring school and district environments."

When asked about its plans for the protest, Kamloops RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Crystal Evelyn said police are aware and will be responding as appropriate.

Kelowna Pride has also released a statement announcing that it will not be organizing a counter-protest and will instead be holding a different event in upcoming weeks. 

"We took a shared decision that we should avoid giving these efforts the oxygen of publicity they seek, by publicizing an official counter-protest or playing this in the media," reads a statement posted online.

"We firmly believe that the forces for love, justice, and equality outnumber those for hatred, fear, and division. So, we will be working together with other groups and individuals in the community to organize an affirming, inclusive, educational, and celebratory event in the upcoming weeks."

— This story was updated at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, with a statement from Kelowna Pride.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Georgina Whitehouse or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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