Counter-rallies also expected in some communities
Protests against schools teaching children about gender and sexual diversity are planned to take place across B.C. Wednesday.
Posters created by a group, called 1 Million March 4 Children, say participants are
standing together against gender ideology in schools — which, in B.C., references Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) programs being taught in public schools.
Similar events are planned across Canada today, with some parents and socially conservative groups protesting LGBTQ-inclusive education policies in the classroom and in extracurricular settings under the banner of parental rights.
But critics and researchers say the term
parental rights is a misnomer because it doesn't address the concerns of LGBTQ parents or parents of LGBTQ children.
Counter-rallies are also expected in some communities.
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There is no specific SOGI curriculum (new window) in B.C., however K-12 students have subjects around human rights, respecting diversity, and responding to discrimination.
Teachers may include discussions around the B.C. Human Rights Code, sexual orientation and gender identity, the provincial government's website says.
Parents can also arrange for alternative ways (new window) to educate children about
sensitive topics related to reproduction and sexuality, including learning about them at home or through self-directed studies. This does not mean students can opt out of studying those subjects.
It is expected that students will, in consultation with their school, demonstrate their knowledge of the learning standard(s) have arranged to address by alternative means, the website reads.
In an interview with CBC News, David Low, one of the organizers of a rally against SOGI programs in Prince George, B.C., claimed children were being
bullied by teachers into changing their pronouns.
Low, who unsuccessfully ran for school board in by-elections earlier this year — losing to two candidates who explicitly endorsed SOGI — said he worries children are being pushed towards getting body-altering surgery without parental knowledge.
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He also said he has heard stories of children identifying as a
The rumour that there are children or teachers identifying as cats in classrooms is one that has often been cited by opponents of sexual and gender education programs, and has repeatedly been denied by school boards (new window) across North America.
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It's one thing to say, well, we have various people who have different feelings about sexuality, Low said.
It's a different thing to teach everybody that it is perfectly normal, and that you [the student] should look into that, if it's applicable to you.
Protests seem driven by misinformation: teachers federation
Clint Johnston, president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, said much of the support for the protests seem to be driven by disinformation and misinformation about what is happening in classrooms.
This [SOGI] is a program that's been running successfully for a long time … supported by every one of the major political parties in British Columbia, he said.
It is just very frustrating to continue to see this type of activity happening based on what are just factually incorrect assertions and misunderstandings.
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He said he's heard claims that teachers are trying to influence children to
Nothing could be further from the truth, Johnston said.
"There is no influence on students to do anything other than to learn to be themselves and to be comfortable with themselves and to be comfortable with everyone in their school around them.
And to understand that there are differences in each of those people around them and how to live together and support each other to be happy and healthy.
Mikara Pettman, a social worker in 100 Mile House in the Interior — about 353 kilometres northwest of Kelowna — started Cariboo Gender Support in 2016, where parents of trans, non-binary, two-spirit and other gender-diverse children can access support and resources.
- Are you ready for a family talk about gender identity? How to handle a sensitive discussion (new window)
Pettman said while children tend to be quite knowledgeable in terms of the gender spectrum, the lack of education around gender diversity historically has led to a lot of confusion now for parents.
Really it's a shock, she told Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce. "Especially of course if parents are cisgender, meaning that they were assigned a gender at birth and it fit for them and they've grown up, which is many of us."
But people like her are trying to change that, she said.
We've come to a place as a society and a culture where we're being more inclusive and understanding, she said,
and that's really good news.
Leaders condemn 'hate-fuelled marches'
B.C. Premier David Eby posted a letter on social media on Tuesday raising concerns about the planned protests and denouncing hate toward LGBTQ communities.
It's upsetting and distressing to see misinformation and disinformation used to attack some of our most vulnerable children and youth, he wrote.
B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender says she is disturbed by what she calls "hate-fuelled marches.''
In a statement, Govender says peaceful demonstration protects democracy and generates debate, but the human rights of the trans and LGBTQ community "is not up for debate.''
She says an inquiry by her office showed almost two-thirds of LGBTQ students don't feel safe at school, compared with 11 per cent of heterosexual students, and attempts to erase them from school curriculums are hateful.
CBC News with files from Sonya Hartwig, Courtney Dickson and the Canadian Press