Protests and counter-protests for and against Canada's trans and LGBTQ community are being planned across Canada on Wednesday.
Posters created by a group called "1MillionMarch4Children" say rally participants are "standing together against gender ideology in schools," which is a reference to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity programs being taught in B.C.'s public schools.
Sarah Worthman, an LGBTQ advocate who is helping organize at least 63 counter-protests across the country, said Canadians need to stand up for the community outside of Pride events.
“Allyship is a verb,” she said, as she called on supporters to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ folks who have increasingly been the subject of hate and political debate by attending the No Space for Hate events.
“There’s this small but vocal minority of far-right individuals who constantly think they’re the majority, and that everyone shares their views,” Worthman said.
She said she hopes the planned counter-protests can help show most Canadians are generally supportive, while countering hateful messaging they expect from protesters.
“Doing these small things shows there is social pushback,” she said. “There is real danger in all of this.”
British Columbia's Human Rights Commissioner, Kasari Govender, called the anti-LGBTQ marches "hate-fuelled" and said while peaceful demonstration protects democracy and generates debate, the human rights of the trans and LGBTQ community "is not up for debate."
She said in a statement Tuesday that 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.
Worthman said politicians, too, “should be louder” about their support for the LGBTQ community, and against individuals who seek to further marginalize members.
Clint Johnston, the president of the BC Teachers' Federation, wrote a letter to B.C. Premier David Eby about the union's concerns about the planned protests.
He said they're part of a co-ordinated attack against the trans and LGBTQ community.
"These rallies are part of a movement across North America that uses 'parental consent' as a dog whistle for rising homophobia and transphobia. This movement is concerning and must be stopped," he said in the letter.
In response, the premier said school must be a place where every student feels secure and it's upsetting to see misinformation and disinformation used to attack vulnerable children and youth.
"Without hesitation, I denounce threats, hate and violence against 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. We are seeing a concerning rise in incidents where trans people are being targeted with threats and violence in person and online," Eby said in the statement.
"We cannot and must not stand idly by in the face of any kind of bullying. Any political leader who targets our most vulnerable, at-risk children and youth is no leader at all."
A statement from the City of Whitehorse said it is aware of a march planned for Sept. 20 in the Yukon city, and anti-LGBTQ messaging that targets community members will not be tolerated.
Bylaw officers in Whitehorse are also aware of the planned march as a counter-protest and the city said RCMP will be monitoring.
Govender said in a statement that those who want to "protect" children by removing school-based supports for gay, bisexual, trans and other students are misinformed.
"As a parent, I plead with those who may think they are protecting their children: Erasing LGBTQ2SAI+ people from our curriculum will not change your child’s identity, but it will make schools, and the LGBTQ2SAI+ people in them, less safe," she said.
Trans people have become the focus of a "surge of disinformation, conspiracy theories and hate," Govender said.
"This is not only about hate on the basis of gender identity; these rallies are an affront to human dignity, expression and rights for all of us," she said.
A letter from Govender to Eby, urged him to release details about the effectiveness of 12 recommendations Govender's office submitted to the province in March.
The recommendations flowed from a public inquiry that examined reports of hate in B.C. and provide a "road map of how to take tangible and transformative action against hate," Govender said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2023.
The Canadian Press