Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children?!

1MillionMarch4Children and the Counter Protest in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Thousands of people marched across Canada on September 20th 2023 to protest sexualized educational material being made available to children at schools. While some outlets reported only “dozens” of protestors in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and counter protestors outnumbering them 2:1, there were roughly 100 people in attendance for the 1 Million March 4 Children, with about an equal number in attendance for the 2SLGBTQIA+ counter protest. Many children were taken out of school for the day by their parents to attend the rally.

Protestors for the 1MillionMarch4Children on Argyle Street, Halifax.

The 1 Million March 4 Children was organized in part by Hands off our Kids with the purpose of protesting the sexualization of children in schools through the use of sexually explicit material.

“Uniting diverse backgrounds and faiths, we share a resolute purpose: advocating for the elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.”

The group also proudly states that they are supported by individuals and groups who are members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Children in the protest group held signs that read “Let us be kids”, while others read “Educate don’t indoctrinate” and “We are parents, not right wing groups.” There were people of all ages present, and a myriad of faiths and races. It was a truly heterogenous group that came together to voice their concerns on the material being taught to their children in schools.

One of the books in question is Beyond the Basics, a resource for educators created by Action Canada targeting children as young as 6 years old. One concerned mother at the Halifax rally created a video detailing some of the content in this particular resource.

Chants from the protestors included “Leave our kids alone” and “Parents rights are human rights,” in contrast to the “Trans rights are human rights” chant by the counter protestors.

Top: Protestors and counter protestors on Argyle Street, Halifax. Bottom: Protestors marching on Brunswick Street, Halifax.

It should be noted that the counter protest to the 1 Million March 4 Children entitled “Education Saves Lives,” stated they were gathering against “bigotry, fear and hatred,” implying that the 1 Million March was anti-LGTBQ+.

Counter-protesters outnumber anti-queer movement in Halifax
The Education Saves Lives call to action

The counter protest, though, was both ironic and misguided. It was misguided because they thought that the 1 Million March 4 Children was somehow a protest against LGBTQ+ people and rights. But the protest wasn’t there to denounce the civil or equal rights that have been hard won over the decades. No one there called for an end to gay marriage, for instance, and having sexually explicit material available in schools, whether for educational purposes or otherwise, is not a right belonging to any identifiable group.

And it was ironic because the only obscenities I heard during the gatherings came from the counter protest itself: a middle aged man waving a sign and calling the families at the 1 Million March “pieces of shit” in front of their children; and chants of “go home bigots” from young women. Indeed the counter protest group was a far more homogenous band of mostly white, mostly masked individuals.

The bottom line is that parents are concerned about the material and ideologies being taught to their children at schools. And governments are now listening. Both New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have (re)introduced parental consent into the educational system. The Province of Saskatchewan also recently suspended Planned Parenthood (Action Canada), the ARC Foundation and all third party organizations, from their schools over the distribution of inappropriate materials to children.

One of the best chants I heard all day came from a small group of Muslim women – “disagreement is not hate.” And this, I contend, is the real problem our children face today – that we as adults, can’t show them how to engage meaningfully with people who disagree with us. We are so polarized that anyone who disagrees with us must automatically be coming from a place of fear, ignorance and hatred – but isn’t that standpoint itself one of fear and ignorance?

Instead of talking about, and listening to, the concerns parents have about the information being presented at schools, we smash pots and pans in their faces, yell trite slogans at them from behind a flag and call them bigots. It is not a step backwards to pause and assess our current trajectory to make sure it aligns with the vision we have for ourselves and our children. It’s just good parenting.

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