July 16th, 2024

Opposing protests counter over school SOGI policies

By Lethbridge Herald on September 20, 2023.

Signs and various 2SLGBTQ+ pride flags held by counter protesters frame a group protesting school sexual orientation and gender identity policies during a rally Wednesday at city hall. Herald photo by Ian Martens

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – apulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Tensions were high in front of Lethbridge City Hall Wednesday morning while two opposing groups rallied against each other, where 2SLGBTQ+ community flags were flying under the same wind as freedom fighters and straight pride flags. 

Hundreds of people from all ages gathered in front of city hall Wednesday with opposing views.

While one side was protesting the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policies implemented in Alberta schools, as they believe them to be grooming and sexualizing children and diminishing parental rights of making decisions for their children, the other side was highlighting the importance of safe spaces in schools for children who are part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and how all children matter. 

Organizer of the 1 Million March 4 Children, Chelle Landry said they were gathering Wednesday in unison with 100 cities across Canada and 35 cities in the United States.  

“We are holding this protest because we feel as parents and community members, that it’s our responsibility to stand up for our children, grandchildren, and make sure that they are receiving education at school and not sexual indoctrination,” said Landry. 

She said they do not agree with the policy procedures used in schools and refer to them as SOGI ideology. She said that teaches kids from kindergarten, from a very small age – where they are not developed mentally to even understand or comprehend what is being taught to them –  and confuses them, and she believes they should not be receiving sexual education in elementary school. 

“That is above their age gap, it’s something that perhaps teenagers do need to know, and be aware of, but it is adult things that are being taught to children and that is unacceptable,” said Landry. 

She said those types of teachings are a violation of the Criminal Code and a violation of the Alberta Bill of Rights in the sense of parental rights. 

“Parents have the right to educate their children and be aware of what they’re being taught in the public education system, and with SOGI policy and procedures, the schools and the teachers are keeping information from parents. They are instructed to keep information from the parents, rather than encouraging students to communicate with their parents and build that relationship and have more support,” said Landry. 

She SOGI policies are taking away their top support people by encouraging students to lie or not disclose information to their parents about what they’re learning, and they are unable to opt out from learning that, as she believes it is not a specific class curriculum, but instead SOGI is integrated into the curriculum of all classes and therefore they do not send home a permission form, or let the parents know that this is what their children are learning. 

“The school needs to be transparent, and they need to inform parents and guardians of what’s being taught, especially this sexual nature. And then on the side of the Criminal Code, exposing young children to this material is considered exposing children to pornography, which is illegal,” said Landry. 

Many supporters at her event held signs that read “hands off our children,” “stop sexualizing our children,” “teach biology, not ideology,” among other more explicit messages. 

Some tried to have a dialogue, but both sides were  vocal about their views. While there was no physical altercations, some got pretty close to others, yelling each opposing message in their opponents faces, but overall it was a peaceful protest. 

While one group called their event a protest, the other group called it a rally to support 2SLGBTQ+ kids. 

This rally was hosted by OUTreach Southern Alberta Society, and president Kim Siever told reporters his organization is a charity devoted to advocacy support and education on behalf of the 2SLGBTQ+ community in Lethbridge and the rally fell under the format of what they do. 

“It’s important to us that 2SLGBTQ+ students within Lethbridge are aware that they have support and that we feel it’s important that they have a learning environment where they can feel that support, where they can feel affirmed and that they can thrive, and so we felt it was important that we come out together as a community to show that solidarity with them,” said Siever. 

He said he anticipated there was not going to be much dialogue as he has previously been to similar rallies but the important part was that the students felt supported. 

When it came to the SOGI policies, Siever said he was unable to comment without a specific example as he was unaware of what the opposing group was referring to. 

“Unless I see the specifics I can’t really comment on, but as far as children being exposed to sexuality in kindergarten, children are exposed to sexuality from the day they’re born. A lot of times people seem to think that sexuality is only something within the 2SLGBTQ+ community, but sexuality is something that people are exposed to even within the broader community,” said Siever. 

He said children are born to parents and obviously they were created under the guise of sexuality, parents came together and have sexual activity and produce their offspring, and therefore, everybody is raised within the environment of sexuality. 

“The idea that children are exposed to sexuality in kindergarten is misleading because everybody is exposed to sexuality, in school, outside the school,” said Siever.

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