Paul Tuns:

On Sept. 20, hundreds of thousands of parents took part in demonstrations at school boards, in front of provincial legislatures and city halls, on Parliament Hill, and at other public institutions to oppose gender ideology propaganda in schools and reassert the rights of parents in their children’s education.

In Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Kitchener, Hamilton, Mississauga, Ottawa, and Toronto thousands of concerned citizens, from numerous ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds, took part in rallies. Most rallies had parents, clergy, and other speakers describe their principled opposition to teachers indoctrinating impressionable students with the LGBTQ ideology. The common refrain of chants across the country was “Leave our kids alone.”

The Million Person March for Children was created by Hands Off Our Kids, an interfaith organization started by Muslim parents, Bahira Abdulsalam and Kamel El-Cheikh, fed up with the relentless promotion of the LGBTQ ideology in publicly funded school systems. The demonstrations were organized by grassroots groups in more than 100 communities in all ten provinces and Yukon territory, and promoted by concerned parents, local church and temple leaders, and larger organizations such as Campaign Life Coalition, Parents as First Educators, Mumma Bears, and the Liberty Coalition.

Hands Off Our Kids describes itself as a group of diverse concerned citizens who came together to “safeguard children from gender ideology teachings, sexual indoctrination, exposure to explicit sexual content, ensuring that parental consent remains paramount.” They vow to “protect our children from thought control and will ensure their religious freedoms are protected,” because “We firmly believe that the government should respect the rights of parents, and schools should focus on subjects that prepare children for their future.”

Hands Off Our Kids explained the purpose of the March on their website: “We are fighting for our children to be able to learn in a healthy school system that is free from biases and indoctrination. We refuse to stand by while the Government and School system allow sexually explicit content and gender ideology to be distributed in our classrooms.”

Teresa Pierre, president of PAFE, told supporters the One Million Person March was a good opportunity “to demonstrate that you have had it with children being taught to question their own sex and to believe that sex can be changed at will.” She said the rallies will “show our lawmakers that we believe gender ideology is damaging to children and has no place in Canadian classrooms.”

Jeff Gunnarson, national president of CLC, urged supporters to “participate in a truly unprecedented event taking place all across Canada” with the goal of protecting “our kids from the dangers of the LGBT indoctrination that’s been taking over their schools.” Gunnarson said the goal, “is to safeguard all children from the propaganda of the LGBT activists, and their gender-bending ideologies, in the education system” and “to make sure no child is ever exposed to explicit sexual content in their schools, nor the corrosive suggestion that they might be ‘trapped in the wrong body’ and should consider whether he or she is ‘transgendered’.”

Gunnarson said the march would “let our elected officials know – from the school boards all the way up to Justin Trudeau – that parental rights and consent are paramount when it comes to our children.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took note of the demonstrations, tweeting (from the United Nations), “Let me make one thing very clear: Transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia have no place in this country. We strongly condemn this hate and its manifestations, and we stand united in support of 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians across the country – you are valid and you are valued.”

NDP MP Randall Garrison (Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke) rose in Parliament to accuse Million People March of being “anti-trans” as he called upon the Liberals to join the NDP in condemning the rallies. Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien enthusiastically responded “absolutely.”

While Liberal and NDP politicians tweeted in support the counter-protest and even took part in them — NDP leader Jagmeet Singh led the union-backed counter-protest in Ottawa — Conservative and Progressive Conservative politicians were generally notably silent, with Tory MPs telling The Interim off the record that they were directed not to speak out about the rallies in a memo from Pierre Poilievre’s political strategist Jenni Byrne.

A notable exception to conservative cowardice was New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs who addressed the rally in front of the legislature in Fredericton, saying he does not understand why there is opposition to his government’s policy to reinstate parental rights. In June, the Higgs government rescinded a policy so parents and guardians will now be informed if their children want to socially transition by using a “chosen name” or a set of pronouns at odds with their biological sex.

Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, however, was at the Ottawa rally, saying that there are “only two sexes” and “common-sense will prevail.”

Tweeting in advance of the rally, Bernier said, “The pro radical trans ideology unions are planning to disrupt these marches. They want to promote the mutilation of children. Let them show how crazy and disconnected from their members they are!”

Union opposition was organized against the protests across the country. Clint Johnston, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, said support for the protests was based on misinformation, insisting the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) program has “been running successfully for a long time” and is “supported by every one of the major political parties in British Columbia.” (Not all the major parties do, in fact, support the SOGI program. John Runstad, leader of the Conservative Party of B.C., which is second in provincial polling, tweeted support for the rallies, vowing, “I will end SOGI123, and I will implement a zero-tolerance anti-bullying approach in our schools.” He called the Ministry of Education’s SOGI program “divisive” and a “distraction.”)

Johnston said, “It is just very frustrating to continue to see this type of activity happening based on what are just factually incorrect assertions and misunderstandings,” although he did not elucidate the ways in which there was incorrect information fueling the parental rights protests.

B.C. NDP Premier David Edby parroted the union’s points, saying on X (formerly Twitter), “It’s upsetting and distressing to see misinformation and disinformation used to attack some of our most vulnerable children and youth.”

Union leader Fred Hahn of CUPE Ontario, an open homosexual, tweeted of the rallies, “there is so much, anger, misinformation and distrust being used to devide (sic) us.”

Teachers’ unions and school boards appeared to be on the same side, against parental rights.

Toronto District School Board director Colleen Russell-Rawlins issued a statement to parents condemning the “inflammatory, transphobic, and hateful” rallies and offering boilerplate statements of “We support everyone’s human rights and expression of gender.” She said that “harassment, discrimination and hate have no place in TDSB” and that “in our schools we do not tell students who they should be but welcome them as they are.” She said that the board’s “social work department” will be available to staff and families who find the rallies “upsetting.” Russell-Rawlins also indicated the board will raise the pride flag at several of its administrative buildings in support LGBTQ students and staff.

Peel District School Board issued a similar letter and support for triggered students and staff who witness “discriminatory and hateful language” during the demonstrations.

Unions, gay rights groups, and Antifa (anti-fascist organizations) organized counter-protests which were generally much smaller than the rallies, but in some locales the stand-off was tense. Rebel News Quebec-based reporter Alexandra Lavoie said there was a “massive presence” among both the pro-family and anti-parental rights groups, separated by police, reporting “The situation is already very tense in Montreal” and “There is a massive police presence on the scene.” Her cameraman’s equipment was spray painted by self-described “anti-fascist” protesters.

The Brantford, Ont., police tweeted that while they recognized there is a Charter right to protest, it warned it would arrest anyone they suspected of promoting hate toward the LGBTQ community.

In Victoria, B.C., two demonstrators were arrested and the crowd of more than 2500 people was asked to disperse after police declared the situation “unsafe.” There was also an arrest in Vancouver. Media reports did not state which side the arrested protesters were on. Arrests were also made in Halifax and Ottawa. Ottawa police informed media they made two arrests for “inciting hatred” by “displaying hateful material” with signs that were deemed to run afoul of Canada’s hate crime laws. In Halifax, a 16-year-old was charged with assault with a weapon and causing mischief.

In Winnipeg, a police helicopter circled above the protest at city hall, where the rally and counter-protest demonstrators were separated by police.

At Queen’s Park in Toronto, the two demonstrations were kept at separate ends of the lawn for a while. No disturbances were reported, but police created a line between the two camps to prevent the standoff from escalating after pro-LGBQT demonstrators taunted parents with offensive language and imagery.

Aylmer, Ont., evangelical pastor Henry Hildebrandt told LifeSiteNews why he joined the Ottawa rally: “I cannot tell you how important it is, exactly at this juncture in time. We must stand for what is right. We must stand for the truth. And actually, humanity knows what the truth is.” He said those participating in the parental rights rallies were bearing a “burden for the children.”

Few Catholic leaders spoke out in favour of the rallies, although Maronite Catholic Bishop Paul-Marwan Tabet, Eparch of the Eparchy of Saint Maron in Montreal, published a letter on Sept. 15 in support of the One Million Person March. He said, “It is important to remember, at this time, that parents are the primary educators of their children” and “They cannot be excluded from the discussion about the curriculum to be delivered to their own children nor should the schools usurp the parental role and undermine parental authority by promoting, in Catholic schools, teaching that are not in full conformity with the values of our Christian families, and the teachings of the Catholic Church.” He said, “The influence of any agenda, including the LGBTQ+ agenda, should not supersede or contradict the teachings of the Catholic Church in our schools.”

Gunnarson said that he has never seen such a large, grassroots undertaking across the country and noted, “One of the key events that triggered an appetite for this massive parental uprising was Campaign Life Coalition’s announcement of the first ever, National Pride Flag Walk-Out Day earlier this summer.” In June, tens of thousands of parents kept their children home from school on June 1, the day when the rainbow “pride” or multicoloured “progress” flag has recently been raised at Canadian schools. The response to that demonstration led local newspapers and television news to report large-scale absenteeism.

CLC’s president said, “I’m so grateful to God that CLC’s National Pride Flag Walk-Out Day was such a huge a success, but it seems like that day of action helped to set in motion something even bigger.”

Gunnarson acknowledged Hands Off Our Kids “for pulling this together.” Hands Off Our Kids said those unable to attend the March should consider keeping their children home for the day. The Interim went to press before reports of absenteeism were available.

Sue-Ann Levy, a former Toronto Sun columnist and self-described lesbian, opposes the pro-transgender ideology pushed at schools. Levy wrote for True North Centre, “As I’ve said many times before, teachers are not social workers or shrinks, nor do they have a right to decide whether a young student should transition.”

Levy said of the Million Person March, “This is not about protecting students in the slightest but maintaining that control. I am thrilled that parents are finally speaking up.”