Hundreds of people gathered in New Brunswick's three largest cities on Wednesday to both protest and support LGBTQ policies in the province's schools.
The demonstrations over sex education policies and LGBTQ rights were held in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton. Similar protests related to the "1 Million March For Children" event were planned across the country.
More than 250 protesters gathered outside Moncton city hall before joining a larger crowd at the city's Centennial Park. About 50 demonstrators waving signs in support of LGBTQ rights stood across from the group.
Several people spoke into a microphone, criticizing LGBTQ school policies and sex education. Protesters waved signs saying "Let Kids Be Kids" and "Parents Rights Matter."
Similar events were planned across Canada, 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.
Protesters marched in front of Moncton's Bessborough School. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)
The Moncton crowd later swelled to more than 400 people as the group marched down Milner Road and past Bessborough School.
Faith McIntyre, who stood in the crowd waving a sign, said she believes children are "being indoctrinated" to have views about gender identity through the school system and society.
"It's more or less like, you have to learn this, this is being shoved down through your throat. And it's making children uncomfortable and we can't just ignore that," she said.
When asked for examples of this pressure, McIntyre walked away and ended the interview.
Events in New Brunswick's other main cities drew similar turnouts. In Fredericton, about 250 protesters and 100 counter-protesters chanted on the front lawn of the New Brunswick Legislature. In Saint John, about 200 protesters and 60 counter protesters stood outside city hall.
Denise Roy-Loar was one of about 50 demonstrators who turned out in support of LGBTQ rights. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)
At the Moncton march, the demonstrations largely stayed in two separate areas, but at times, supporters of the LGBTQ community stepped behind protesters and waved Pride flags. Some people tried to discuss their conflicting views.
On the other side of the park, Denise Roy-Loar waved a Pride flag and held a sign saying "Protect Trans Kids." She said as a member of the LGBTQ community, it was important to her to show her support for others.
"I'm a bit disappointed to hear that a lot of the things being said are based in religion and not necessarily based in scientific or psychological fact. So it's great to have religious belief, but they shouldn't necessarily infringe on the rights of the secular population as well."
Diana Wright attended the event with members of her church, as a show of support for the LGBTQ community. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)
Mohammed Muhmul, a Grade 10 student, was at the protest with his family. He said he was protesting against "people controlling their kids."
"They're teaching kids that changing your body however you want is OK. And they're kind of somehow pressuring kids to it."
Muhmul said he couldn't think of any examples.
Diana Wright, who was wearing a rainbow tie and holding a sign saying "Love is Love," turned out with members of the Sackville United Church.
"We want to make sure our presence is known, because we matter too," she said.
"We want the same thing they do, we want our children safe. Nobody is saying we want to change your children, nobody is saying anything like that."