Pro-trans protest counters OMMC for a second time

Another country-wide protest opposing LGBTQIA2S+ school policies meets a mass pro-trans response around Canada

Pro-trans protesters hold up signs in support for their cause. Photo Vincent Casinghino

On Oct. 21, clashing protests outside the Ministry of Education office occurred between the One Million March for Children (OMMC) group protesting LGBTQIA2S+ inclusive school curriculums and a collection of counter-protesting groups advocating for the rights and safety of LGBTQIA2S+ youth.

This is the second time they’ve gathered since Sept. 20 to counter the country-wide protests against gender-inclusive curriculums and policies in schools.

Counter-protesters arrived early to occupy the area in front of the Ministry of Education building on Fullum Street. They managed to block the whole street, redirecting OMMC protesters to regroup on the other side of the building.

The crowd of hundreds of counter-protesters played music, provided free meals and refreshments, and strictly controlled access to the gathering for safety purposes. Social media posts by organizers Celeste Trianon and Sarah Worthman stated that the aim of the counter-protest is to disrupt a movement that wants to deprive students of comprehensive and inclusive educations that support the rights and freedoms of all.

With signs reading “our kids belong to us” and “stop indoctrinating and sexualizing our children,” the OMMC protest stands against LGBTQIA2S+ inclusive policies in schools. These policies include a child’s right to use their preferred pronouns and preferred first name without parental consent, mixed-gender bathrooms, and education on sexual orientation and gender identity. The rise of this movement was originally sparked by the New Brunswick government’s policy of parental consent for teachers to use students’ preferred pronouns and first names in June. Additionally, Saskatchewan’s subsequent adoption of this bill on Oct. 20 does the same.

The rise of these protests around the country has raised fears and concerns for safety among the  LGBTQIA2S+ community and its allies. A number of protesters in cities across the country were arrested for inciting hate and disruption in this past month. Police reported that anti-LGBTQIA2S+ hate crimes have risen 64 per cent since 2021, according to Statistics Canada.

Counter-protester Alex Nelson said he felt hypocrisy among the protesters in their messaging about child protection. “They have nothing against child’s pageant contests, which is really sexualized,” said Nelson. “They only have a problem when it’s trans kids expressing themselves.

No statement on the protests has been made by Quebec Education Minister Bernard Drainville who said he objects to mixed-gender bathrooms in schools last month.

“It’s about showing up and being an ally,” said Sharon Desouza, a counter-protester, “we want to make sure that our communities are being fully represented.”

High school teacher Elyse Bourdeau emphasized that LGBTQIA2S+ policies aim to create safe spaces for students at school who might otherwise not have a place to express themselves safely. She said that parental consent policies single out trans and non-binary students, putting them in particularly vulnerable positions. “The teenager must have a safe space in school to experiment, to try to discover themselves. And our goal is never to hide anything from the parents. But sometimes we have to, and most of all, we must protect the teen,” Bourdeau said.

When protesters with the OMMC started arriving around 11 a.m., they were directed to the other side of the Ministry of Education building by counter-protest volunteers at the blockade on Fullum Street and St Catherine Street East. Some non-violent hostile interactions occurred between sides. The groups faced off near the Ministry of Education building for a couple hours until the OMMC protesters dispersed.

Once the protesters dispersed around 1:30 p.m., counter-protesters marched down St Catherine Street East to Frontenac Metro. “There’s no place for hate in Montreal, there’s no place for transphobia in Montreal,” cheered counter-protesters.