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Ottawa mayor condemns anti-LGBTQ2S+ ‘Million March for Children’ rally in Ottawa

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe is condemning a march on Parliament Hill that is opposed to teaching LGBTQ2S+ issues in schools.

The “One Million March for Children” took over Parliament Hill Wednesday morning, met by pro-LGBTQ2S+ counter-protesters. Ottawa police kept the two sides separated along Wellington Street.

The states goals of the protesters is to demand that schools stop teaching children about gay, lesbian and trans people, which the protesters claim runs counter to their rights as parents to control their children’s moral and social upbringing.

Similar protests are being held across Canada.

In a post on social media, Sutcliffe said he respects the right to protest, but does not agree with this one.

“I respect the right to protest, however the specific targeting of 2SLGBTQIA+ children for being who they are, has no place in our city. The protests taking place today will only cause harm to youth who are looking for our support and acceptance,” he said.

“I stand with Ottawa’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Please know that you are valued and are always welcome here.”

The city of Ottawa said on its official account on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that it “denounces any acts and displays of hate and discrimination.”

Ottawa police will be monitoring the event and residents can expect an increased police presence downtown.

“The Ottawa Police Service is aware of reports of planned demonstrations, and we are working with our municipal and policing partners on integrated operational plans,” a police spokesperson said in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.

“It is the role of police to ensure that community safety is upheld, laws are enforced, and lawful demonstrations are allowed. Police presence does not indicate support for any cause.”

The city says bylaw officers will be enforcing all parking regulations. OC Transpo service will be maintained but might need to be detoured in the event of any road closures.

What is the Million Person March for Children?

The protest is a demonstration targeting what organizers call “intrusive elements of sexual orientation and gender ideology” in the school system. Organizers claim they are not opposed to the LGBTQ2S+ community, but they oppose the school systems promoting LGBTQ2S+ issues in ways that they believe go against the values and beliefs they want to raise their children with. The march is being billed as a multi-faith event that includes people from all cultural backgrounds.

The march comes on the heels of months of cultural battles in the U.S. and Canada over LGBTQ2S+ rights, particularly involving transgender people and gender-affirming care for minors.

Gender-affirming care can include social elements, such as accepting the use of a different name or preferred pronouns or dressing as the preferred gender, to medical interventions, which include puberty blockers, hormone treatments and, for adults, surgery, if necessary. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s standards of care recommend that parents be involved in and consent to decisions related to gender transition for youth who are below the age of majority or medical consent.

People hold signs during a demonstration in Ottawa, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. Protests and counter-protests for and against Canada’s trans and LGBTQ community are being planned across Canada on Wednesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

In Ottawa, protests have already been held outside drag storytime events at the National Arts Centre and at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board over its transgender policies. These protests were met with pro-LGBTQ2S+ counter-protests.

Federal politicians have noted a “rising tide” of hatred against the LGBTQ2S+ community and transgender people most notably. In Ottawa, hate-motivated crimes rose 23.5 per cent in the first half of 2023, with Jewish people and LGBTQ2S+ people being the most targeted, according to Ottawa police.

These issues have also risen to the halls of power in Canada. 

The governments of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have tabled legislation that would require that educators obtain parental consent if a child wishes to use a different name at school or be addressed by different pronouns. Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce have discussed similar ideas but, so far, no legislation has been announced in Ontario.

Proponents claim that the legislation would uphold parents’ rights to be informed of their children’s activities at school, but critics worry that forcing teachers to out kids to parents could lead to harm.

It’s also made waves in federal politics. At the recent Conservative Party of Canada convention, delegates voted in favour of a future Conservative government prohibiting “life-altering” medical and surgical interventions for gender-diverse and transgender people under the age of 18.

Counter-demonstration promotes acceptance

Several community groups and unions showed up to counter-protest the demonstration on Wednesday.

Counter-protesters say they are rallying to “demonstrate Ottawa’s unwavering support and opposition to a thinly veiled agenda of homophobia and transphobia concealed behind the rhetoric of ‘parental rights’.”

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke to counter-protesters on Wellington Street Wednesday morning.

“This isn’t a march for children. It’s a march against safe schools, fuelled by conspiracy theories, misinformation and anti-queer sentiment,” said Fae Johnstone, Ottawa queer advocate and president of the Society of Queer Momentum in a news release. “All students deserve safe classrooms and inclusive environments. Together, we can create better and more inclusive schools for everyone.”

Organizers of the march and of the counter-protest have both publicly vowed to be peaceful.

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