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WRDSB, community groups express concern over planned nationwide protests over gender policies

Children raise their hand in a classroom. (Narongchai Hlawprasert/Adobe Stock Photo/CNN) Children raise their hand in a classroom. (Narongchai Hlawprasert/Adobe Stock Photo/CNN)
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The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) says they are concerned about protests planned coast-to-coast on Wednesday Sept. 20 that question policies surrounding gender and LGBTQ2S+ issues in Ontario schools.

The 1 Million March 4 Children is a nationwide rally scheduled for Wednesday, with participants advocating for the elimination of what they call “the sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms” in schools.

The rally is hosted by a group called Hands Off Our Kids.

“Together, we stand united to safeguard the well-being and innocence of our children,” reads the website for the march.

Rallies are planned from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Kitchener City Hall and Guelph City Hall.

The school board said it has protocols in place including working with Waterloo regional police ahead of the protest/protests.

“As always, the safety of students and staff is always a priority,” said Estefanía Brandenstein, a communications officer with the WRDSB in an email to CTV News.

WRDSB REACTS

On Tuesday afternoon, the WRDSB posted a statement on their website saying they’re aware of the planned protests. The school board said the protests may cause harm to members of the 2SLGBTQIA+and Muslim communities.

“Unfortunately, underlying some of the motivations behind these demonstrations are hate and inaccuracies about what is happening in schools. We continue to focus on creating inclusive, safe spaces, and ensuring the well-being of all students and staff… especially those most marginalized,” the school board said.

The school board said they are committed to upholding the human rights of all they serve and are committed to creating and maintaining identity-affirming learning and working environments.

“All identities and abilities are honoured at the WRDSB,” said the school board. “As a secular, public education system, we do not teach children what to believe. However, we do teach that there are many ways that people define and express their identities. All are worthy of respect.”

The school board also said the impact the protests may have on 2SLGBTQIA+ students, staff and families is “worrying.”

“This concern is further amplified, as this population of students is at higher risk of suffering depression and have higher rates of suicide,” WRDSB said.

The public school board also expressed concern about the protests increasing acts of hate in the region.

COUNTER PROTEST PLANNED

The group Ground Up Waterloo Region will be hosting a counter protest, dubbed the Queer Youth Defence, on Wednesday at 9 a.m. at Kitchener City Hall.

“A hate group ‘Hands Off Our Kids’ is using anti-queer rhetoric to take away the rights of youth in determining their own identities. We are denying them a space to spew their bigotry and queerphobia, and protecting the rights of youth to safety and privacy,” said a post on social media.

Several other groups expressed their support for the counter protest, including the Sexual Assault Support Centre of WR, Sanguen Outreach and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

“Any actions or events that seek to undermine the rights and dignity of the 2SLGBTQ+ community must be denounced,” said a social media post from ETFO.

CITY COMMENTS

The City of Kitchener said they are also aware of the protest and counter protest on Wednesday.

“While the city recognizes people’s Charter-protected right to organize and protest in public spaces, Kitchener City Council stands by our 2SLGBTQIA+ community members, especially queer youth who may be strongly impacted by these demonstrations,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic in a statement to CTV News.

The mayor said he believes all residents have the right to live in safety, be true to themselves and live free of harassment and hate.

“No member of our community should ever feel targeted because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, race, religion, nationality, age or background,” he said.

The city said bylaw and police will be present during the demonstrations to ensure a safe environment for all.

 

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