Over 200 anti-LGBTI protesters have rallied against British Columbia’s new inclusive curriculum, which aims to provide a safer environment for at-risk LGBTI youth.
The protesters who gathered in front of the Vancouver Teachers’ Federation headquarters, waved “Don’t mess with our children” signs at passing cars and pedestrians.
The new program known as SOGI 123, has been rolled out in 51 of the state’s 60 school districts and aims to make schools safer and more inclusive for LGBTI students.
Elements of the program include teaching respectful language around LGBTI issues, and encouraging gay-straight alliance clubs, something that the anti-LGBTI protesters, many of them parents, have taken offence to, claiming that the programs are an invasion of schools by an extremist ideology bent on sexualizing their children.
“If we’re going to talk about homosexuality, let’s do it honestly,” said organiser Kari Simpson during the protest rally.
“Let’s talk about the ramifications of the homosexual lifestyle. Let’s talk about the fact that gender identity is a mental illness … Why are we taking little nine and ten-year-olds and celebrating them transitioning and sentencing them to a life of chemical dependency?”
Simpson who is the executive director of Culture Guard, an activist group behind the rallies against SOGI 123 in Vancouver, says that she sees herself standing up against “sex activists” who she says are infiltrating British Columbia’s schools through the teachers’ union, intent on getting access to children.
Despite all the anger and intolerance, the anti-LGBTI protest was outshined by a smaller group of counter-protesters and supporters of the new program. Waving rainbow flags, and banners saying “we all deserve to be,” and “Knowledge=Power,” the small group of mostly youth set up directly across the road.
Speaking at the counter-protest, Madison, a Grade 12 student at Burnaby North Secondary School, and the president of her school’s gay-straight alliance, says she used to attend a private school without a SOGI program, something she says, made it feel dangerous to speak out about who she is.
“I transferred to Burnaby North and I immediately found my friend McKenzie,” Madison said.
Standing next to Madison, stood her friend sporting bright face paint. “She brought me to the GSA and showed me all the people there and that I could love myself and that I could be OK with who I am. I feel like because of SOGI and because we had a GSA, I’m happy now,” Madison adds.
The Vancouver protests concluded peacefully.