Concerned citizens gathered at KR Barkman Park in Steinbach on Wednesday, drawing attention to the rights of parents within the public education system.
They claim their purpose is to advocate “for the elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.”
Some people held up signs while they walked down Main Street toward City Hall.
Alex Kub, a parent with a child in public school, says he would like schools to be free from anything related to LGBTQ+.
“We don’t have much input on what’s being taught in schools, the curriculum. I like to be informed about some of the stuff that is being taught in schools here. I certainly am in disagreement on some of this stuff, some of the topics that are being taught to our kids.”
Cari Wiebe says she believes parents should have a say regarding when and if their children are taught about gender and sexual orientation.
“At the very least, have a say as to if and when their children are going to be learned, are taught about sexual orientation and gender. I think that it's important that parents, who know their children better than anybody, will know at what point in time they're ready to hear that information,” says Wiebe. “I believe that it's important that parents know what pronouns our children are being called in school, and by what names.”
Wiebe says that as a home school parent, she is still required to teach the same curriculum, but is given more freedom in how that is being done for her children.
“It is actually required by the government that, even as home school, we teach our children about sexual orientation and those things,” she says. “And I think that's great. But I as a parent have the right to actually do that in the context of our belief systems. Whether you're an atheist, Christian, Muslim, whatever that is, as a parent, you should have the right to teach those things from your point of view, and I think that parents are solely losing those rights. I think it's being done not always out in the open.”
Sarah Wieler attended the event to counter-protest, saying the queer community needs to know they aren't alone, but rather that they are loved, valued, and important human beings.
"Especially in a city as conservative as Steinbach where that isn’t obvious," Wieler adds. "Several of the people I spoke with earlier, said things like ‘I’m fine with gay adults or whatever, just don’t teach that to my kids’. Except the thing is that a) no teacher is teaching any students ‘how to be gay’ and b) queer adults were once queer children. Representation and inclusion matter. The rates of self-harm and suicide with queer kids due to bullying at home and/or school is disproportionately high relative to their straight peers. If all kids aren’t taught that there are many different ways to be human, to live and love and learn and create, some will bully those who are ‘different’ and the bullied? Well, they may not make it to adulthood. Furthermore, if they’re only ever taught that there is ONE way to live (read: straight, white, Christian) - well, *that* sounds more like indoctrination to me than telling kids they get to be and love who they are, and love who they wish. Because, isn’t the ‘greatest of these, love’? So why was I there today? To make sure that queer kids know they aren’t alone, and to be a still small voice of love amongst so much vitriol."
According to posters for the event, parents were encouraged to pull their children out of school at 9 a.m. Looking at attendance records for the day, a representative from the Hanover School Division says there was no indication of an organized walkout.
Protesters held rallies across Canada on Wednesday accusing schools of exposing young students to "gender ideology," and said parents have the right to know whether their children are questioning their gender identity.
It was New Brunswick’s government that helped spark a debate across Canada about the way schools engage with transgender and nonbinary students. In June, the government changed the province’s LGBTQ+ policy, requiring students under 16 to get parental consent before their teachers can use their preferred first names. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has filed a lawsuit against the province over the policy.
New Brunswick’s initiative was copied by the Saskatchewan government, which has also prohibited teachers from referring to students under 16 by their preferred first names and pronouns. An injunction application that aims to stop the policy is before the courts, arguing it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by causing teachers to potentially misgender students or out them to their parents.
With files from The Canadian Press
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