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PHOTOS: Hundreds turn out for Abbotsford march against ‘indoctrination’

Protest met with counter protesters in Jubilee Park as tensions run high between sides

Several hundred people showed up at Jubilee Park Wednesday morning to protest what they are calling “indoctrination and sexualization” in schools.

Abbotsford was one of a handful of Lower Mainland cities chosen as locations for the 1 Million March 4 Children, which were held across Canada that day. Many of the protesters had their children in tow, as part of the movement involved a student walkout.

They are protesting the provincial educational materials known as SOGI, which stands for sexual orientation, gender identity. It’s a resource that was implemented into all B.C. schools, including private ones, seven years ago.

One of the speakers at the Abbotsford march led the crowd in a cheer saying “you all know why you’re here. You’ve seen the books. Ban the books!”

The crowd chanted back “ban the books” repeatedly.

Several speakers using a megaphone told stories of pulling their children from school completely to home school, due to their concerns. Some people believe that teachers are “indoctrinating” children to question their gender and identify as transgender or non-binary, or gay or lesbian.

The crowd gathered for about two hours, building up to about 1,000 people before setting off to walk through downtown Abbotsford. Abbotsford Police, who provided traffic control, estimate about 400 people took part in the actual march.

But not everyone in the crowd is against SOGI 123 learning materials, and inclusive atmospheres in schools. Like in other cities, the Abbotsford march drew out a counter protest. A few hundred counter protesters lined the back end of Jubilee Park, and a sparse line of Abbotsford police officers and hired security kept the peace between the two movements.

Here and there, tensions clashed as people interacted with each other.

One elderly man began mocking Nate, a non-binary person who was attending his first rally ever.

The man was questioning Nate’s sexuality, said there was no such thing as being transgender, and pointed to his own head and said “it’s a mental problem.”

His sign read: “Teachers leave our kids alone.”

Through the interaction, Nate’s partner Geileis, a transgender lesbian woman, kept a gentle hand on his back.

Afterward, Nate said the interaction left him shaking.

“This protest means a lot to me,” he said, despite negative repercussions. “This is the first time I’ve felt ready to come to something like this. It’s important to me because they are saying trans kids shouldn’t be in schools, and I had the hardest time being who I am. They didn’t know what to do with me.”

Nate helped start a gay student alliance club in his high school that’s still active, about 10 years ago. Geileis started the Chilliwack Queer Cafe, which is a safe meeting place held regularly at the Chilliwack Metis House.

They both said that attitudes against the queer community have worsened, and it’s harder than ever to live openly as themselves.

Many of those gathered at the protest were from the South Asian community, and a large portion of the protest were also youth. At one point, a young woman climbed on a man’s shoulders with a billboard, shouting at the line of LGBTQ counter protesters.

Sean Nosek, the superintendent for Abbotsford School District, sent a letter out to families on Tuesday ahead of the protest.

“We are committed to providing safe, inclusive and caring spaces where students can learn and grow without fear of prejudice or bias,” he wrote. “As you may be aware, there are demonstrations scheduled to take place in the lower mainland this week which have fostered inflammatory, transphobic, and hateful behaviours against members of 2SLGBTQ+ communities.

“We want to make it unequivocally clear that the Abbotsford School District supports our 2SLGBTQ+ students, employees and families, and we support everyone’s human rights and expression of gender.”

He said they look to the Human Rights Code and have “witnessed firsthand the harm caused by anti-2SLGBTQ+ campaigns.”

He said the district will “consistently stand against disinformation and false narratives aimed at undoing our progress.”

He underlined that safety of students and staff remains paramount.

NOTE: The number of attendants originally reported in this story has now been adjusted, after viewing footage and discussions with the Abbotsford Police Department.

READ MORE: Business walks returning to downtown Abbotsford later this month



Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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