Saskatchewan's two largest cities played host to protests over LGBTQ rights in schools Wednesday.
Several hundred people gathered in Saskatoon and Regina, some supporting policies like Saskatchewan's new pronoun and name rules for schools, and others gathered in counter-protest.
In Saskatoon hundreds gathered in Kiwanis Memorial Park to express anger at LGBTQ inclusive education.
"It's not about hate or an anti-gay thing. It's just about having the right to be able to parent our kids and not have that interfered at a school level," Erica Grenier, one of the organizers of the Saskatoon iteration of "1 Million March 4 Children."
Erica Grenier is one of the organizers of the Saskatoon iteration of '1 Million March 4 Children.' (Travis Reddaway/CBC)
Grenier said the protest was also to show solidarity with the government's recent new policy around sex education and pronoun policies. She said many faith communities share her sentiments.
Similar events were planned across Canada Wednesday, 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.
"We are here to fight for our kids. We don't want them to be sexually indoctrinated at young ages," said Sandi Kullman, one of the demonstrators.
"How two men or women have sex, should that be in books out there in libraries and schools? It's just disgusting."
Joan Kruesel, left, and Sandi Kullman, right, say they are fighting against indoctrination of children. (Pratyush Dayal/CBC)
Joan Kruesel and Kullman held on to a poster that read, "Take back control of education." Kullman said parents should have choice in what is being taught to their children.
"We are not angry with anyone, but we want a choice to protect our children and grandchildren."
Many diverse groups gathered expressed similar sentiments.
Mustafa Mustaan addressed the gathering at Kiwanis Memorial park, saying schools are targeting kids. (Travis Reddaway/CBC)
Mustafa Mustaan addressed the gathering at Kiwanis Memorial park, saying schools are targeting the kids. He said parents, not teachers, should provide sex education.
"You can see the number of the LGBT community is much fewer here. But the way they are acting in the schooling system is the way as if they are the highest majority of the country, which is not so true," he said.
Mustaan said parents can choose the best for their children, and that many in the Muslim community in Saskatoon share his views.
Balpreet Singh moved from Punjab, India, to Canada for to give his children a better future, but he says schools should not teach them about sexuality. (Travis Reddaway/CBC)
"I moved from Punjab, India, to Canada to experience multiculturalism and the bright future of our kids, but they are being taught about sexuality. We don't want that to be taught," said Balpreet Singh, another demonstrator.
"Kids are like a plant. If you plant a seed, you have to protect it. The surroundings affect a lot," said Jashandeep Dhillon, calling it a message from the Sikh community in Regina.
She said exposure to sex ed material will encourage children to explore those avenues. She said she is worried some day her son will come back from school saying he identifies as a girl.
"Math and science are more important," she said. "Leave my kids alone."
Jashandeep Dhillon says many in the Sikh community in Regina feel exposure to sex ed material will encourage children to have sex. (Adam Bent/CBC)
In Regina, Tonie Wells, one of the main organizers, said the protest was an invitation to all communities. She said her kids who attend Lumsden High School saw sex ed material that left them lingering with questions.
"Our little ones are too young to understand this," she said. "We are not here to hurt anybody or say anything horrible. Leave our kids alone. That's all."
Tonie Wells, one of the main organizers in Regina, said young children can't understand sex ed material. (Adam Bent/CBC)
In both the cities, the police officers were present to escort protestors as they marched down the road.
Counter-protestors say more education needed
At Vimy memorial in Saskatoon, there was friction between the two groups of demonstrators, but didn't appear to be any physical altercations.
Members of each group espoused beliefs at each other.
A woman protesting against LGBTQ rights in schools in Saskatoon. (Pratyush Dayal/CBC)
Erica McFadden said said most of the protestors in favour of the province's new rules are swamped with misinformation and urged them to read up on statistics around suicide rates among trans youth.
"When we were saying love is love, somebody from the protesters called us child f- - -kers," she said.
"There is no space for hate. More education for parents is needed."
Todd Morrison took his two kids out of school for half an hour to participate in the counter-protest to express solidarity with trans rights. He said the protests have been "bizzare," with divided messaging.
He said American rhetoric has made its way to Saskatchewan.
"This is the slippery slope. It starts with protecting the children, and then moves into let's not have any transition at all regardless of age, and let's protect children from queer themes books, and et cetera."
Todd Morrison took his two kids out of school for half an hour to participate in the counter protest to express solidarity with trans rights. (Pratyush Dayal/CBC)
Morrison said his kids, who have trans friends, are alarmed.
"I feel sick to my stomach watching these protestors," Alistair, Morrison's son, said.
The 11-year-old said he supports children's rights and that they should not be "governed" into being what parents think they should be.
Aidan Stubbs, 27, said he is an ally to the trans community and that the ongoing '1 Million March 4 Children' protests are 'blatant rebranding of Nazi propaganda.' (Travis Reddaway/CBC)
Aidan Stubbs, 27, said the province's recent policy change "demonizes" trans people and deprives them of supports.
"The protests are blatant rebranding of Nazi propaganda. A lot of these are bigoted talking points that have no basis in reality."
There were also protests planned in other Saskatchewan cities like Prince Albert, Swift Current and Yorkton.