I want to start by saying I am forever grateful that Wednesday’s protests were peaceful.
There is always a chance when differing ideals meet on the same street and tensions are escalated because of the passion felt on both sides, that violence could result.
I was pleased to see respect shown by both groups who gathered downtown Red Deer this week to have their voices heard on a particularly divisive issue.
This was not the case all across Canada, as 2SLGBTQIA+ students had rocks thrown at them in Kitchener, Ont., and a pride flag was burned. There is a video of a child on stage in Calgary who was encouraged to call gay people “psychos.” Here we are talking about indoctrination in schools, and that sounds like indoctrination of hate to me. Still, those seem to be isolated incidents, which is encouraging.
In Red Deer, the message was consistent from the 1 Million People March group. That their gathering was not about hate towards the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. It was about gender ideology being taught in schools and excluding parents from those conversations. As well as educational policies that exclude parents from the way sexuality and gender identity are talked about in schools.
And parents should be involved in those decisions! That’s why schools have parent councils, they have school board meetings that are open to the public and school board members who represent the community.
Schools have parent/teacher nights where parents are encouraged to meet teachers and discuss any concerns they might have with the learning environment. Teachers are in constant communication with parents about what their students are learning in school.
Parents should also have those discussions at home so that their children can treat their 2SLGBTQIA+ peers with respect and dignity.
Right now, teachers are struggling with overcrowded classrooms, in some cases new curriculum implementation, learners who are still catching up as a result of COVID-19 and a general apathy towards school that surpasses most of what any of us have ever witnessed.
It’s no sense blaming anyone or pointing fingers, it’s the reality of where we’re at.
Given all that, to think teachers have a breadth of extra time to spend indoctrinating or grooming children with 2SLGBTQIA+ policies is a notion that should be particularly bothersome to many in the community who send their children to schools every day. Because we all want our teachers to focus on our children’s education and we want them to have students’ best interests at heart.
We’ve believed in that system for more than a century and suddenly over the past handful of years trust has rapidly collapsed in certain parts of our population in that particular institution.
In some instances, if there is mistrust in schools, the option has always existed to homeschool your children if you believe institutions do not live up to the standards you hope they enforce or teach.
Maybe I’m naive, because I come from a family of teachers. Maybe I’ve been fooled or duped by the “groomers.”
But I believe in evidence and what I’ve seen and heard from teachers with my own eyes over my lifetime suggests otherwise.
Those teachers are wondering if they have enough desks in their classroom for each kid to sit during a lesson. They are wondering how to help students improve their reading, writing and math skills. Teachers are thinking about if they purchased enough extra pencils or have enough resources to get through the week.
They spend week after week trying to find creative ways to engage students in learning. It wasn’t easy when I was a kid, or for you I’m sure and with the distractions of social media and cell phones these days, I’m sure that challenge has increased exponentially.
So it’s saddening and disheartening for our democracy to see education get dragged down in this way. Education is the key to a healthier society. Helping kids understand the mistakes of our past is key to moving our democracy forward. Making sure they know how to communicate properly, that they remain curious and engaged citizens is a vital practice as Canada grows.
Yet, as I watched the events of Wednesday unfold, I kept wondering how can two groups who want the same thing be so far apart in the solution to the problem.
One Million Person March protesters want to protect our children and believe that parents know what’s best for children.
Counter-protesters wanted a safe space for young people who identify with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Regardless of who you sided with, you can’t deny that those young people exist and have a right to exist. So what are we really arguing here when everybody wants the same thing, what’s best for the children? Or at least that’s the claim anyway.
One problem with the argument that children are being “indoctrinated” or “brainwashed” into supporting the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is that there’s little evidence that it’s happening.
It’s been proven time and time again that this is simply a dog whistle to drum up hate towards to marginalized community that in reality, represents less than five per cent of our society.
That’s not to say the 2SLGBTQIA+ community doesn’t deserve support, it’s exactly the opposite. By targeting that community you isolate them and make them afraid to be their true selves. And because there are fewer of them, they don’t have the strength in numbers to push back against the hate. Whether or not the protests on Wednesday were directed at them, they felt attacked.
They deserve support because the road they must travel to acceptance is a hard one. It’s unfair that society paints them as the other and labels them as the problem. They have to be brave to push back. Even in a protest that is about parental rights and learning in schools, the 2SLGBTQIA+ community gets dragged into a fight, about their right to exist.
Don’t parents who want to protect children, want to protect these people too? Don’t they have a right to exist just as much as the rest of us? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights claims so.
“All people, including LGBTQ2I individuals, are entitled to enjoy the protection provided by international human rights law, which is based on equality and non-discrimination.”
I applaud the parents who stood up and want to have more of a say in their children’s education. That is an admirable goal, as long as it is not rooted in some hatred towards a marginalized group.
Because it is far easier to find and perpetuate hate than it is to choose kindness and acceptance of those who are different. They should be comfortable to be who they are.
Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate and a regional editor for Black Press Media.