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Protest, counter-protest planned in Kamloops on Sept. 20

Those taking part in the the Million Person March for Children are opposed to teaching sexual orientation and gender identity in schools

Prepare for a protest and counter-protest in the downtown and Sagebrush neighbourhoods on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

Local supporters of the Million Person March for Children will be gathering outside the Kamloops Law Courts and plan to march at 11 a.m. to the Kamloops-Thompson school district office on Ninth Avenue across from South Kamloops secondary and the Kamloops School of the Arts.

Those taking part in the march are doing so in opposition to what they believe is “LBGT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) indoctrination in schools,” via sexual orientation and gender identity lessons, according to information posted online to promote the protest.

In response, other groups, including the BC Federation of Labour, are organizing counter-protests in Kamloops and across Canada.

The Million Person March for Children is being organized by a group called Hands off Our Kids. The Sept. 20 event follows Campaign Life Coalition’s National Pride Flag Walk-Out Day on June 1, when parents were urged to keep their children home that day, when the Pride flag was raised at some schools to mark the start of Pride Month.

While organizers of the march claim students are being subjected to “non-stop LGBT brainwashing in the classroom,” groups like the BC Federation of Labour

have pointed to what they call “a surge of anti-trans hate speech and actions across the country, ranging from regressive and harmful provincial education policy to resolutions passed at this month’s federal Conservative convention.

“The same forces who have been using fear, disinformation, conspiracy theories and hate to whip up anti-trans bigotry are now coalescing in hate rallies in communities throughout Canada and BC on September 20,” the BC Fed stated in a release. “These rallies directly attack the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and the principles of equity and inclusion that are at the heart of labour solidarity.”

Meanwhile, staff at the Kamloops School of the Arts will be asking students to remain inside the school while the protesters are outside the school board office across the street.

“We want to ensure our students are safe and do not engage with these protesters,” principal Blair Lloyd said in an email sent to parents. “Police are aware of this protest and should any protesters interfere with the running of our school, I will be calling the RCMP to assist in removing the group. At this time, I want to reiterate that we accept all students and staff members to be their true selves, including those who identify as LGBTQ2S+ and we will not tolerate any hateful messages towards students or staff.”

Late Monday (Sept. 18), the Kamloops-Thompson school district released a statement from superintendent Rhonda Nixon and board of education chair Heather Grieve. It reads in part:

"Given the planned gatherings of groups who intend to share polarized views about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) education this week, it is timely and necessary to speak to our core commitment as a District and Board of Education–that we support every child and adult to be who they are and value their protected human rights. Given that the planned gatherings may cause LGBTQ2S+ students, staff, and families to face barriers and experience fear or a lack of safety in our community, we affirm your presence and emphasize our unwavering support for you to belong, be included, and safe in our schools and district facilities. We have conduct and anti-bullying procedures that address protected grounds of discrimination under the Human Rights Code. In those procedures, we take steps to address anyone whose behavior jeopardizes the safe, caring, and welcoming environments of our schools and district facilities. We do not support anyone who articulates perspectives that are discriminatory or any acts that jeopardize safe and caring school and district environments."