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P.E.I. community groups call on police, educators, to condemn hate following protests

Signs from people advocating for parental rights waved next to signs with messages like 'Supporting trans kids saves lives' at a protest and counter-protest in downtown Charlottetown Wednesday.  (Kerry Campbell/CBC - image credit)
Signs from people advocating for parental rights waved next to signs with messages like 'Supporting trans kids saves lives' at a protest and counter-protest in downtown Charlottetown Wednesday. (Kerry Campbell/CBC - image credit)

Five community groups on P.E.I. have written to police and education officials seeking public statements in support of the LGBTQ community.

The groups, which include PEERS Alliance and Pride P.E.I., are asking Charlottetown Police Services, the Public Schools Branch, and the provincial Department of Education for public expressions of support for the province's gender diversity guidelines.

They also want officials to publicly condemn hate in response to Wednesday's protests around inclusion in Island schools.

Charlottetown police said Friday a total of five people had reported being assaulted during the protest. Those complaints are under investigation.

"This is scary, this is traumatizing," said Josie Baker, executive director of PEERS Alliance.

She said members of the LGBTQ community woke up the day after the protest to a Prince Edward Island they hadn't known before.

Josie Baker says the roots of Wednesday's protests can be traced back to groups working against the LGBTQ community.
Josie Baker says the roots of Wednesday's protests can be traced back to groups working against the LGBTQ community.

Josie Baker says the violence seen during and after Wednesday's protests is scary and traumatizing. (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC)

"The level of violence and aggression is something we've never seen before on P.E.I. and so I'm mourning that we are now experiencing that level of hate in our province," she said.

Protests and counter protests

Some protesters wore T-shirts that read, "Leave our kids alone," while others held signs with messages like, "Our kids go to school to learn ABC, not LGBTQ2s+" and "Let kids just be kids."

It was part of a widespread protest across Canada that some are calling the "1 Million March 4 Children," focusing on sexual education and LGBTQ respect policies in schools.

Counter protesters waving Pride flags and holding signs with messages like "Protect trans health care" and "Protect trans kids" gathered at the same location, many wearing rainbow clothing and holding large rainbow umbrellas.

Skirmishes occasionally broke out in the crowd, several witnessed by a CBC News crew. At one point, a person was knocked to the pavement before being surrounded by a protective cordon of people holding and wearing rainbow symbols.

Barb McDowall says both sides of Wednesday's protest 'could have done better.'
Barb McDowall says both sides of Wednesday's protest 'could have done better.'

Barb McDowall says both sides of Wednesday's protest 'could have done better.' (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC)

Officials asked to defend LGBTQ rights

The groups that wrote the letter also want officials to defend the rights of the LGBTQ community and denounce what they describe as hate-based violence.

Advocates said they want people in positions of power to weigh in as a first step toward de-escalating the conversation.

And they want something more than the emailed statement the premier sent to CBC Thursday.

"We have more work to do, but we will continue to do everything we can to ensure that Prince Edward Island is a safe and inclusive place for all Islanders to live, work, and raise a family," the statement said.

There was a significant amount of verbal hatred being spewed - Kali Ross

"No matter who you love, how you identify, who you worship, or the colour of your skin – we are all Islanders."

Barb McDowall has been attending marches for decades, since the days of the fight for same-sex marriage, and said she had never experienced anything like Wednesday's events.

"To me, it's just the tip of an iceberg and we need to get to the root causes," said McDowall. "We need to listen to each other and we have to do that … because there is a real safety issue."

Kali Ross, who attended as a counter protester and sits on the board of the P.E.I. Transgender Network, said people they know were harassed and physically assaulted.

Kali Ross says people in positions of power should denounce hate towards the LGBTQ community.
Kali Ross says people in positions of power should denounce hate towards the LGBTQ community.

Kali Ross says people in positions of power should denounce hate towards the LGBTQ community. (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC)

"There was a significant amount of verbal hatred being spewed," said Ross. "I can't count how many times some of the protesters told me that I should go and die or that, you know, I shouldn't exist."

While surprised by what happened Wednesday, Ross said they've been telling the community at large "This hate has been growing for some time now."

So far, the groups say there's been no response to their letter.