By Lisa Gervais
A 1 Million March 4 Children event in Head Lake Park Sept. 20 quickly led to Minden Pride organizing a counter rally, as hundreds demonstrated their ideological differences in the Highlands.
The 1 Million March 4 Children was a series of protests in cities and towns across Canada.
Local spokeswoman, Valerie Jarvis, said they were uniting diverse backgrounds and faiths who, “share a resolute purpose: advocating for the elimination of the sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.”
She said as a symbol of their commitment, students were encouraged to participate in a nationwide school walkout on the day, although few did locally.
“Together, we stand united to safeguard the well-being and innocence of our children,” Jarvis said. She added their mission is to, “free children from the bondage of indoctrination. Breaking the system designed to sexualize our children.”
While the approximately 50 Million March participants started at the welcome centre in the park, they eventually marched on the path towards Haliburton Highlands Secondary School.
The walkway was lined by LGBTQ+ supporters, who outnumbered them approximately three to one. One of the 1 Million March 4 Children brigade called out “God bless you.” The Pride-organized supporters answered with “educate, don’t discriminate.”
Pride chair Alan Guinan said, “I think the idea of removing queer ideology from the curriculum in high schools is a very dangerous proposition because it’s been proven that people who are within the queer spectrum have to have some sense of belonging. If you remove it from the education system, I don’t know where else they’re supposed to get it from.
“There’s this idea that there’s this sexualization of children, which is not what education is about, so from our perspective, we’re just here to say that there is a different viewpoint around education of children.”
Guinan added the opposition march seemed to be part of a growing anti-LGBTQ+ movement.
“We’re starting to feel as though there’s other people who have maybe a different agenda, an anti- LGBTQ+ agenda. We really want to ensure that our voices are heard.”
The Trillium Lakelands District School Board’s Carolynne Bull said TLDSB believes in safe and caring school communities.
“It is important that all students, including our youngest students, learn to respect each other’s individuality. Students and staff need to see themselves reflected in the language used in classrooms and in the school,” she said.
“At TLDSB, Positive Space is only one component of the equity and inclusive education strategy. Since 2009, TLDSB has been working on a number of inclusive education initiatives, including religious accommodation, Indigenous rights, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status, to promote a safe and caring school climate for all.”
She shared two pages from the TLDSB website relating the board’s “commitment to equity, inclusion, and well-being for all.”
Youth speaks out
Participant ‘Poet’ said she couldn’t agree more with Minden Pride that sexual orientation awareness and programming belongs in schools. She emphasized it isn’t classroom-based curriculum.
Poet said she grew up queer, always struggling with her identity, and was bullied at school.
“I was the weird kid. I was always doing different things with my self expression and I didn’t know how to deal with it.
“If I would have had the education, some staff at my school saying, ‘it’s actually fine for you to be who you are. You can be whatever you are, maybe I wouldn’t have been one of those at-risk youth.”
She’s gone on to do youth advocacy work with a few different organizations, such as Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario, provincially, nationally, and globally.
She said trans youth today do face risk. “When we remove resources from those young people, they’re more likely to slip through the cracks,” the 22-year-old said. She referenced a Canadian Medical Association Journal 2019 survey that found trans youth showed five times the risk of suicidal ideation and 7.6 times the risk of suicide attempts. (Lisa Gervais)