Kingston community members faced off against parental rights advocates to peacefully counter protest in support of LGBTQ+ inclusive education in public schools.
Counter-protesters gathered at Confederation Park outside City Hall on Sept. 20 opposing 1 Million March 4 Children, a group advocating for the elimination of sexual orientation and identity education in schools and in school curriculum.
One Million March 4 Children organized protests across Canada, with one of these protests happening in Kingston.
Counter-protesters included students, educators, community members, labour union members, and local politicians.
In attendance was local King’s Town Councillor Gregory Ridge. Though he applauded both sides for peacefully putting “democracy to work,” he stood with the LGBTQ+ community.
“Schools are supposed to be a safe place for children. It’s supposed to be a place that if there are concerns at the home, they can bring them up to adults and professionals and get help,” Ridge said in an interview with The Journal.
Over the summer, both New Brunswick and Saskatchewan instituted policies requiring parental consent for students wishing to change their pronouns or preferred name who are under the age of 16. Ontario Premier Doug Ford echoed his support for such policies at an event on Sept. 1.
Queen’s University Philosophy Professor Lisa Guenther, who attended the counter-protest, claimed legislation requiring parental consent creates more difficulties for youth.
“When we legislate that we out trans kids and let their parents know, without them necessarily having a supportive family environment, we’re making it doubly hard for those kids to figure out who they are,” Guenther said in an interview with The Journal.
As an university educator, Guenther called on Queen’s University to do its part to educate students on sexual orientation and gender identities.
“I think [Queen’s University] has a responsibility to foster open and critical conversations about sex, gender, and sexuality in all of the disciplines where that’s relevant, which is a lot of them,” Guenther said.
Over the course of the day the counter-protest gained strength as more people filtered in. Passing cars blared their horns, and rally chants created a tense atmosphere.
Counter-protesters reported being peaceful and positive despite the intensity of the day and opposition across the street.
“This is kind of a tense situation,” Cameron McNeil, BMus ’23, said in an interview with The Journal. “I feel a lot of pride. We outnumber them, which is a good feeling. It shows how much people in Kingston are willing to come together as a community.”
Protestors affiliated with 1 Million March 4 Children waved Canadian flags and sported bumper stickers reading “F— Trudeau” and “Small Fringe Minority.”
Part of the 1 Million March 4 Children movement was a school walk out and many young children were in attendance with their parents.
For drag performer and counter-protest organizer, Bee Witched, the disagreement was fuelled by misunderstanding.
“A lot of them think we want to groom their children or to plant these ‘bad ideas’ in their minds, and really all we truly want is for kids to feel like they’re loved and cared for, seen, heard and safe,” Witched said in an interview with The Journal.
Standing alongside community members were members of PSAC 901. One of the Union’s executive members Mia Akbar, MSc ’24, claimed union attendance was necessary to actively support their members.
“PSAC 901 is not unique in that it has a strong and vibrant queer membership. Other unions have queer membership as well,” Akbar said in an interview with The Journal.
Near the end of the rally, 1 Million March 4 Children protestors left their position in front of City Hall and marched into the square on the other side. When they returned from their lap around the other corner, protesters were forced onto a narrow slice of sidewalk, as counter-protestors had taken up both sides of the street.
Standing among their community in the counter-protest, former Queen’s University student Chip Wright, Comp ’24, was feeling the love.
“These people accept me for who I am, and I accept them for who they are—just as humans should,” Wright said in an interview with The Journal.
“What we’re standing here for today is to let kids know that there are people out there that are like you. That you are safe to be who you are.”
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