More than 100 people gathered outside Jubilee Centre yesterday morning to protest sexuality and gender identity in schools.
Protestors carried signs decrying “chemical castration” and stating “leave the kids alone”. The protest grew in size before marching to the offices of the Fort McMurray Public and Catholic school divisions.
The self-described “1 Million March 4 Children” encouraged Primary-education students to walk out of their classes and picket their schools in solidarity with the movement however, no student protests were witnessed in Fort McMurray.
The Fort McMurray Public School Division (FMPSD) and Fort McMurray Catholic School Divisions (FMCSD) issued a rare joint statement in response to the demonstration. While acknowledging the right to peaceful assembly, the divisions affirmed their commitment to ensuring a safe and supportive environment for all students, staff, and families.
The schools stated all individuals, regardless of their cultural backgrounds, sexual orientation, and other demographic characteristics, are welcomed and valued in our schools.
“Our schools provide a platform for promoting dialogue, understanding and respect towards diversity, and we continuously work towards enabling a culturally responsive curriculum,” said the joint statement.
“Fort McMurray Catholic School Division (FMCSD) and Fort McMurray Public School Division (FMPSD) continue demonstrating their unwavering commitment towards diversity, inclusion, and equity within the schools and the entire community.”
Pride YMM also responded to the protest saying the rally is explicitly an anti-2SLGBTQIA+ march masquerading as a movement to support parental rights. Pride says they made a conscious decision not to engage in a counter-protest in order to avoid drawing attention to the event.
“We stand against this march and condemn its ideals of ignorance, intolerance, division, and hate,” said a statement from Pride YMM.
“These protests are led by far-right organizations that promote false and dangerous rhetoric about the context and content of inclusive education policies and practices within public schools.”
“These marches are not for children, as organizers claim, but rather an attack on the autonomy of children and on the human rights of 2SLGBTQIA+ children and youth in public schools.”
The RMWB also issued a statement saying the Municipality firmly supports the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
“While the Municipality respects the right to freedom of association, hate or discrimination towards the 2SLGBTQIA+ community will not be tolerated,” the RMWB released in a statement.
“We stand firm in our support and solidarity with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.”
The RMWB also brought up the recently launched Workplace Inclusion Charter.
“Recently, the municipality strengthened its commitment to equity and inclusion by becoming a signatory to the Wood Buffalo Workplace Inclusion Charter,” states the RMWB in the release.
“We continue to foster empathy and understanding, and build more spaces of belonging, collaboration and respect, where all can thrive, feel seen and valued.”
Similar rallies occurred in other cities across Canada. In Victoria police warned the public to avoid going near the provincial legislature due to a volatile situation, while in Ottawa some protestors were arrested, and one demonstrator placed a Nazi flag on the National Aboriginal Veterans Memorial. The Fort McMurray protest remained peaceful and dispersed early in the afternoon.