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Protesters, counter-protesters shut down Ottawa streets over LGBTQ rights in schools

Demonstrators march south on Elgin Street at Laurier Avenue.  (City of Ottawa - image credit)
Demonstrators march south on Elgin Street at Laurier Avenue. (City of Ottawa - image credit)

There were rolling closures on downtown Ottawa streets Wednesday as demonstrators marched through the city's core.

Wellington Street was closed Wednesday morning between Bank and Elgin streets going in both directions, Metcalfe Street was closed at Queen and Elgin and Bank streets were intermittently closed between Laurier and Wellington as protestors moved around.

Around 2 p.m., police posted that streets had all reopened.

The protests and counter protests are in relation to the "1 Million March 4 Children," planned across the country on Wednesday.

Similar events are 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.

Demonstrators march in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday.
Demonstrators march in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday.

Demonstrators march in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday. (Rebecca Kwan/Radio-Canada)

Demonstrators stand on Wellington Street in downtown Ottawa.
Demonstrators stand on Wellington Street in downtown Ottawa.

Demonstrators stand on Wellington Street in downtown Ottawa. (Joe Tunney/CBC)

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.

A line of police separated the two groups of demonstrators using bicycles to create a barrier between them.

At its height, there were more than 1,000 people at Parliament Hill.

"Irrespective of your faith, heritage, sexual orientation, or colour of skin, our government is firmly committed to the safety and well-being of all children in Ontario schools," a spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement.

"Our priority is to ensure that we get students back to basics and focus on what matters most — strengthening literacy and STEM in the classroom. Our firm commitment is to continually support the voices of parents across Ontario's education system, so that their children can graduate with the real-life and job skills they need to succeed."

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe condemned the protest in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"The protests taking place today will only cause harm to youth who are looking for our support and acceptance," the post said.

"I stand with Ottawa's 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Please know that you are valued and are always welcome here."

Hala Daboussi has kids in the Ottawa school system.
Hala Daboussi has kids in the Ottawa school system.

Hala Daboussi has kids in the Ottawa school system. (Joe Tunney/CBC)

Hala Daboussi has kids in the Ottawa school system and was at Parliament Hill to protest school policies.

"Just to explain that we are not against any group … we are just against sexualization of the curriculum," she said.

"I want this subject to be left to the parents to teach their kids about it. I don't want the school, I don't want the government to teach the kids about it."

George Soule has one school-age child.
George Soule has one school-age child.

George Soule has one school-age child. (CBC)

George Soule has one school-age child and was at the counter protest.

"I'm here because I think we have to protect trans kids and there's no room for homophobia and transphobia and hate in our society," he said.

"We need to make sure there are safe spaces and for some kids, the only place they feel safe is in their school."

A line of police separate the two groups of demonstrators at Parliament Hill Wednesday.
A line of police separate the two groups of demonstrators at Parliament Hill Wednesday.

A line of police separated the two groups of demonstrators at Parliament Hill Wednesday. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

In an interview Wednesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh addressed the question of parental rights.

"We want parents involved. I think it's a bit of a red herring argument. There's no question that parents should be involved in everything that their kids are engaged with at school, that parents should be incorporated," he said.

"It's also important to acknowledge that for some kids, home is not always a safe place."