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Competing protests over LGBTQ2S+ inclusive education in Kitchener and Guelph

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Protests for and against LGBTQ2S+ inclusive education returned Saturday with more than 100 people in the streets in downtown Kitchener and dozens in Guelph.

For the second time in a month, rallies under the banner of 1 Million March 4 Children were organized in both cities calling for the elimination of what organizers call “the sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum.”

Counter-protests were mounted in response, calling the 1 Million March 4 Children transphobic and homophobic.

In both Guelph and Kitchener counter-protesters out numbered those with the 1 Million March 4 Children.

1 Million March 4 Children protesters gather at Kitchener City Hall on Oct. 21, 2023. (CTV Kitchener)

It comes amid an ongoing debate over queer rights in schools.

Earlier this week, the Government of Saskatchewan invoked the notwithstanding clause to pass a law preventing children under 16 from changing their names or pronouns at schools.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has signalled his government may consider similar measures.

Counter-protesters with the Queer Youth Defence in downtown Kitchener on Oct. 21, 2023. (CTV Kitchener)

“The provincial Conservative party and the federal Conservative party have fanned the flames of it for their own political gain, so this movement’s not going away,” Kitchener counter-protestor David Alton said.

“There are actual real implications, it's causing an immense amount of stress for many people in our community and it's time that people in the community start paying attention, start using and leveraging the tools they have.”

Counter-protesters form a line in downtown Kitchener on Oct. 21, 2023. (Hannah Schmidt/CTV Kitchener)

Meanwhile those with the 1 Million March 4 Children expressed concerns about the way sexual orientation and gender identity are taught in schools and how it impacts their traditional values.

Blanca Siguenza in Kitchener says there’s nothing hateful about their movement.

"The message to get across is, I accept you for who you are, can you accept me for who I am as a parent looking out for my children's innocence?"

“Whoever you choose to be is your own choice. Everyone’s entitled to their autonomy, but do not force it. Do not force it on my child because as a parent I was given that right and that duty to teach and instruct my child,” she said.

Protesters with the 1 Million March 4 Children in Royal City Park in Guelph on Oct. 21, 2023. (CTV Kitchener)

There were similar scenes in Guelph.

“If you have an issue with content that’s being taught in school, you have the right to opt out right now,” Guelph Coun. Erin Caton said at the counter-protest at Royal City Park.

“We just want kids to be left alone,” 1 Million March 4 Children organizer Michael London said. “Let them be a child and have the innocence of being a child. Let parents have the final say in their kids' upbringing."

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