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“There is No Place For Hate in Our Province”

In a statement released Saturday, October 21, Manitoba Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine restated the Manitoba NDP government’s support for 2SLGBTQIA+(Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual) people. Fontaine, who acts as Minister of gender equity, made specific mention of transgender and gender-diverse youth living in Manitoba, emphasizing that young people in Manitoba must be supported to “live as their authentic selves.” 

“Our government stands firm in support of 2SLGBTQIA+ Manitobans and against any form of discrimination or intimidation that puts the lives of 2SLGBTQI+ youth at risk.” 

“There is no place for hate in our province.” 

The statement came the day of an anti-2SLGBTQIA+ rally held outside city hall. Protestors at city hall called for the elimination of 2SLGBTQIA+ education as a part of sex education in Manitoba schools. Approximately 150 people gathered Saturday, many of whom are parents with children in Manitoba public schools. 

A major point of contention among those at the protest is whether teachers and councillors in public schools should keep information pertaining to a student’s gender identity private from parents. Parents at the protest feel this is a politically motivated overreach, arguing it takes control away from parents. 

Listed on the Million March 4 Children website, the movement claims not to be anti-transgender. Rather, they argue their goal aims to protect children from “premature sexualization and potentially harmful indoctrination.” 

The marches have been taking place across the country and draw hundreds of people. Each of these has been met with a pro-2SLGBTQIA+ counter-protest. While the Million March 4 Children aims to protect children, counter-protesters often stand on similar principles of child protection. The March officially argues that children are being introduced to concepts of gender identity at too young an age. 

Contrary to this, those protesting on behalf of the 2SLGBTQIA+ often say a parent with little understanding or who does not believe trans identities to be real will reject kids for sharing their true feelings. Protestors believe the child has a right to be accepted for their identity in school, especially in instances where parents reject the notion their child may be transgender. 

In the statement released to the government of Manitoba website, Fontaine specifically mentioned concerns about the safety of 2SLGBTQIA+ people. 

“Targeting members of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities- particularly transgender and gender-diverse youth, through fear and division is unacceptable and puts the lives of Manitoba youth at risk.” 

Not far from the City Hall protest, outside the Manitoba Legislature, was a counter-protest to this national movement against 2SLGBTQIA+ education in public schools. The counter-protest occurred at the same time as the one held at city hall. The counter-protest went under the name No Space for Hate. 

Many involved in the counter-protest were teachers as well as members of 2SLGBTQIA+ positive groups around the city. Many said those who fear what their children are being taught are ill-informed as to what is actually being introduced to children in Manitoba public schools. Ultimately, they hope young people with questions about their identity will feel safe being themselves at school. Some at this protest said parents ought to contact their child’s school and learn what is being taught before they jump to conclusions. 

The new Manitoba Government has been unyielding in its support for young people in the LGBTQ+ community.  

“I am grateful to community organizers for their leadership on this issue and for organizing today’s No Space for Hate counter-protest party, which demonstrates the strength and allyship of the community showing up in support of transgender and gender-diverse you,” Fontaine added in her statement. “As I begin my work as minister responsible for gender equity, I look forward to working with community groups and advocates, ensuring all 2SLGBTQI+ Manitobans feel safe, supported, cared for, and represented in our government.”  

In September, a Rally for trans youth was coordinated in response to the national March 4 Children. Thousands of people gathered at the Manitoba Legislature in a show of support. As is often the case at such a rally, rainbow flags, bright, colourful outfits and signs of support for the LGBTQ+ community were scattered throughout the crowds which gathered. The protest, which took place in September, marched down Broadway all the way to the Forks. 

A National Conversation 

In August, Federal Progressive Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre made headlines after saying schools should stick to basic education and leave conversations about LGBTQ+ issues to parents’ discretion. While the provinces are in charge of education, Poilievre was not shy with his opinions, which have seemingly become a pillar for the Progressive Conservatives nationwide.  

“We want every parent to have the freedom to raise their kids with their own values,” Poilievre has said. 

Poilievre has specifically stated that schools should stick to math, reading, and writing.  

In New Brunswick, Premier Blaine Higgs said the education system has no right to withhold information about students from their parents. If a student were to tell a teacher or counsellor they want to transition or are exploring their identity, the parents should be immediately informed, according to Higgs. 

During the provincial election for the premier of Manitoba, MLA Obby Khan followed the newfound party mentality. On billboards and in newspapers, Khan’s face sat next to the promise to bring “parental rights” to Manitobans if the Progressive Conservatives were voted back into office. The party declined to elaborate on what exactly this meant or to what extent they intended to act. 

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced that parental consent would be required in order for kids in school to change their preferred name or for them to change their preferred pronouns if the student is under the age of 16. This idea has recently become law in Saskatchewan after Bill 137 passed Friday. 

The passing of Bill 137 has outraged many in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community across Saskatchewan and across Canada. Called the Parents Bill of Rights, the new bill has left many feeling as though this is the first step against trans children and the trans community.   

Many trans advocates have spoken out about the value of having a teacher to confide in when a young person first begins to question their gender identity. A teacher is someone young people are in contact with on a near-daily basis, which ultimately leads to a bond of trust. While there is no doubt that parents do their best for their children, it is not always true that parents are emotionally prepared to accept that their child is transgender. In many cases, it can take months or even years for a parent to fully accept their child as transgender, while in other instances, parents never accept their child. This time of not being accepted can be hazardous for the mental health of the young person.  

Proponents of allowing privacy between teachers and students argue that by having a teacher or counsellor to talk to about these feelings, the student will have an emotional outlet. Without this trusted person, the student may have nobody they feel safe to talk to. Parents may have an abrasive response, whereas a teacher can at least offer acceptance. The same can be said of fellow students, as a personal journey can quickly become a pinpoint for harassment from other students who fail to understand the depth of impact rejection can have. 

– Matthew Harrison, U Multicultural

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