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Montreal Pride organizers cancel parade

A lack of security personnel prompted last-minute decision

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(Courtesy of ๐…๐ข๐ž๐ซ๐ญรฉ ๐Œ๐จ๐ง๐ญ๐ซรฉ๐š๐ฅ ๐๐ซ๐ข๐๐ž/Facebook)

Citing a lack of adequate security personnel, the organizers of the Fiertรฉ Montrรฉal Pride Parade abruptly cancelled Sunday’s parade. The event organizers told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation the decision was made in collaboration with Montrรฉal police.

CBC reported that other Pride events taking place at the Esplanade du Parc olympique from 2 p.m. local time, including the closing show with Pabllo Vittar, will go on as as planned. Tens of thousands of people were expected to attend the parade.

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Eight jailed across Canada during anti-LGBTQ sex ed rallies

Prime minister condemned bigotry; counterprotests outnumbered demonstrations

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Protests sparked across Canada over gender policies in schools took place on Sept. 20, 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube CBC)

A highly coordinated series of anti-LGBTQ protests rocked more than 80 cities across Canada on Wednesday, in a significant escalation of tactics by Canadaโ€™s anti-LGBTQ extremists.

The coordinated protests dubbed 1 Million March 4 Children are demanding an end to discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity in Canadian classrooms. They come as several Canadian provinces have enacted policies that require students to have parental permission to change their preferred name or pronoun used in schools, and shortly after the federal Conservative Party adopted a series of anti-trans policies at its national convention.

According to its website, 1 Million March 4 Children is calling for โ€œthe elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.โ€ The website also lists among its supporters numerous groups that were opposed to masking policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-vaccine groups, groups that promote conspiracy theories, and groups that support the truck convoys that laid siege to Ottawa and several U.S. border crossings last year.

Protests happened from coast to coast, in big cities, suburbs and small towns, but in most cases, they were met with coordinated counter-protests in support of LGBTQ rights who greatly outnumbered the protesters. 

CBC reported that counter-protesters numbered roughly double the anti-LGBTQ protesters in St. Johnโ€™s, Newfoundland.  

Inclusive sex education has long been part of school curriculums in most provinces in Canada and has generally enjoyed support from all major political parties.

While the protests where mostly peaceful, at least four anti-LGBTQ protesters were arrested after getting into altercations with counter-protestors in British Columbia, and police advised that the protest in front of the provincial legislature had become โ€œunsafe.โ€

Police in Nanaimo, British Columbia, tackled and arrested one man who attempted to flee after allegedly getting into a physical altercation at City Hall. Two protestors were also arrested in Victoria, British Columbia, as they demonstrated in front of the provincial legislature, and another protester was arrested in Vancouver. Police in both cities did not provide additional information.

Ottawa police also arrested two protesters for allegedly inciting hatred and another for causing a disturbance in at the protest in front of Parliament.

And Toronto police arrested 47-year-old protester Julia Stevenson for allegedly bringing a weapon to the demonstration outside the provincial legislature. Police did not give further details about what kind of weapon she is alleged to have been carrying.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, condemned the anti-LGBTQ protests in aย tweet on X, formerly Twitter.

โ€œLet 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 โ€” you are valid and you are valued,โ€ he wrote.

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre did not put out any statement on the protests, nor did deputy leader Melissa Lantsman, who is openly lesbian and has previously spoken out on LGBTQ issues on behalf of the party. 

The leader of the left-leaning New Democratic Party Jagmeet Singh joined the counter-protestors who demonstrated in Ottawa and marched toward Parliament Hill.

โ€œWe know that thereโ€™s a lot of folks that donโ€™t feel safe because of the rise in hate and division thatโ€™s targeting vulnerable people,โ€ Singh told CTV. โ€œBut then you see a lot of people coming together, and it shows the strength of solidarity, of us supporting each other, of having each otherโ€™s back.โ€

Alberta Teachersโ€™ Association President Jason Schilling says the protesters are part of a North America-wide movement fomenting hatred against queer people using misinformation and lies.

โ€œUsing โ€˜parental consentโ€™ as camouflage, this rally was part of a coordinated strike across North America to promote misinformation, intolerance and hate toward the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, as well as toward teachers who work to protect the safety and well-being of all students,โ€ Schilling said in a statement.

In many cities, the anti-LGBTQ protests were officially condemned by mayors and school boards.

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, who has publicly supported LGBTQ rights since the 1980s, issued a strong statement condemning the protests

โ€œWe stand against all forms of discrimination, hatred and bigotry, and for the safety and well-being of all young people. Some wish to target our schools and libraries to spread hate. We know these must be spaces that welcome everyone, especially students,โ€ Chow wrote.

The city of Whitehorse, Yukon, issued a statement condemning bigotry in advance of the protests.

โ€œWhile the city supports peopleโ€™s right to organize and protest, we stand by our 2SLGBTQIA+ community members and their right to live their true selves safely and free of harassment and hate. The promotion of anti-2SLGBTQIA+ ideas has no place in our community and messages that target fellow community members will not be tolerated,โ€ the statement says.

However, New Brunswick Primer Blaine Higgs, who was the first to introduce a โ€œparental consentโ€ policy for trans students, joined the protesters in front of the provincial legislature in Fredericton. 

โ€œI think our parents should become knowledgeable about what their kids are being taught and what is important for them to learn in schools and whatโ€™s important for parents to make decisions on with kids that are under 16-years-old,โ€ Higgs told reporters.

British Columbia Conservative Party leader John Rustad went further in a statement on the protests. While he says he doesnโ€™t โ€œofficiallyโ€ support the protests, if his party wins next yearโ€™s election, he promised to cancel the provinceโ€™s sex ed curriculum and implied he would ban transgender girls from sports.

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Canadaโ€™s conservatives take hard turn against transgender people

Party leader Pierre Poilievre spoke at policy convention

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Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre speaks to delegates to the federal Conservative Partyโ€™s policy convention in Quebec City. (Photo courtesy of the Conservative Party of Canada)

Canadaโ€™s federal and provincial Conservative Parties are suddenly joining American-style culture wars centered on transgender issues, announcing new policies to crack down on access to medical care and women-only spaces, and restricting trans children from using chosen names and pronouns in schools.

At the federal Conservative Partyโ€™s policy convention in Quebec City this past weekend weekend, 69 percent of delegates voted to bar trans children from receiving gender-affirming care, while 87 percent of delegates voted to define โ€œwomanโ€ as a โ€œfemale personโ€ and to demand that trans women be barred from women-only spaces.

The policy vote, which was initiated by the partyโ€™s grassroots, will only become a part of the Conservative Partyโ€™s official platform if current leader Pierre Poilievre decides to include it. The party has been riding high in the polls for several months as Canadians deal with a growing cost-of-living crisis, but a federal election isnโ€™t scheduled for two more years.

While the federal Conservatives had recently tried to focus on economic issues rather than culture-war issues, the convention vote is emblematic of how social conservatives have come to dominate the partyโ€™s agenda. 

The vote also comes as a wave of anti-trans and anti-drag protests has appeared across Canada. 

The latest salvo in the culture war battles against trans Canadians was ignited this spring, when the deeply unpopular Conservative premier of New Brunswick announced a new policy that would bar students from changing the name or pronoun they use at school without written consent from their parents. Two cabinet ministers resigned in protest over the new rule, which was immediately criticized by LGBTQ activists and teachers unions, who pointed out that it would be impractical to enforce and would violate trans studentsโ€™ human rights. Nevertheless, the policy came into effect in September, although it has faced a court challenge by the Canadian Civil Liberties Union.

Shortly after, the conservative-affiliated government of Saskatchewan introduced a similar rule that has also been subject to a court challenge. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has announced he intends to bolster the regulation with a โ€œparental rightsโ€ law this fall as it prepares for an election next year. An anti-LGBTQ Christian organization called Action4Canada has claimed credit for lobbying the government to introduce the school reforms. 

That was followed by the Conservative government of Ontario led by Premier Doug Ford announcing that it was developing a similar policy. Fordโ€™s government has been mired in a series of scandals recently, including most prominently a land reclassification that saw a handful of party donors receive billions of dollars in land value uplift while degrading environmentally sensitive land around Toronto. 

Ford and his ministers have repeatedly described the new policy as protecting parentsโ€™ rights in speeches and campaign-style events, although a provincial election isnโ€™t scheduled for another two years.

โ€œParents rights. They need to be โ€ฆ informed when they [students] make a decision. Itโ€™s not up to teachers and school boards to indoctrinate our kids. I canโ€™t even figure out what school boards do anymore,โ€ Ford said at an event in Kitchener, Ontario, last week. 

Many activists have pointed out that Ford appears to be attempting to use the new policy to shift attention from the corruption scandal that has already led to the resignation of one cabinet minister.

โ€œShame on Premier Ford. Schools are not indoctrinating students. This ‘parental rights’ rhetoric is just a good slogan hiding an anti-trans and social conservative agenda. And โ€” right now โ€” itโ€™s a desperate distraction from his scandal-plagued track record,โ€ tweeted Fae Johnstone, a trans activist and president of the advocacy group Queer Momentum. 

Five of Canadaโ€™s other seven provinces are currently governed by conservative-leaning parties, though none of the others have announced plans to copy the student name and pronoun policy yet. 

Although Canadaโ€™s Conservative Party and its provincial cousins have a long history of pursuing policies that have harmed LGBTQ communities, the sudden wave of anti-trans policies has come of something of a surprise, after what appeared to be several years of dรฉtente on culture wars.

In 2021, the federal Conservative Party allowed Parliament to pass a bill banning so-called conversion therapy by unanimous consent and in 2017, dozens of Conservative MPs joined the government in passing a bill that banned anti-trans discrimination and hate speech. Saskatchewanโ€™s conservative government banned discrimination against trans people in 2014, and Conservative parties also gave unanimous consent to provincial conversion therapy bans in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Yukon in the last decade.

In the last federal election in 2021, the Conservative Party fielded its first ever openly trans candidate, Hannah Hodson, who ran in the district of Victoria, British Columbia, placing third with 13 percent of the vote. Though Hodson served for years as a staffer for conservative politicians, she announced this year that she was leaving the party due its turn to anti-trans policies. 

โ€œTo all the [Conservative Party of Canada] people who have told me they love me, support me, and would fight for me, and who are now telling me to calm down and just go along with this, or worse, telling me to stay quiet. I see you and I will not forget,โ€ Hodson wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, in response to the convention vote on anti-trans policies. 

While the federal government doesnโ€™t generally control health services, Health Canada could regulate the use of medications and treatments for trans children. The federal government also doesnโ€™t generally have the ability to regulate access to womenโ€™s spaces in schools or businesses, but does control prisons, airports and federal government offices. 

Nevertheless, trans activists say that if the proposed policies are enacted by a future federal Conservative government, they would greatly harm trans people. 

โ€œI would like everyone to recall, quite simply, that trans people are generally poor, more likely to be homeless, and experience a whole lot of hate for being ourselves. This is the community that the Conservative Party of Canada is picking on. Because they can,โ€ says Johnstone. 

The new provincial policies around trans kids mirror legislation proposed or passed in several U.S. states that requires schools to out students to their parents if they appear to be LGBTQ. 

Itโ€™s somewhat whiplash-inducing to see Conservative legislators who just a few years ago supported banning conversion therapy now call for parental consent over gender identity. Under the federal and provincial laws that Conservatives previously supported, it would be illegal for parents to try to change their childโ€™s gender identity or expression by forcing them to undergo conversion therapy. But under the education policies enacted by Conservative provincial governments, parents would essentially hold a veto over their childrenโ€™s gender expression. 

Children and youth advocates, LGBTQ activists, as well as teachers unions have pointed out that the new rules violate the rights of trans students to a safe learning environment. The rules also put educators in an impossible position of policing the gender identities of their students.

โ€œWhile we believe that the ideal situation would include parents and guardians in the conversations and decision making, we support current school board policy in Ontario that centers the students in the decision making and honors their right to self-identify, even when parental consent is not given, to support an equitable and inclusive learning environment,โ€ wrote the Ontario Principalsโ€™ Council in a statement on the proposed rule

โ€œStudents who do not have parental, family and community support that respects and validates them face higher risks of self-harm, emotional distress, isolation, deteriorating mental health and increased bullying. Gender-affirming practices such as honoring preferred names and pronouns help to reduce those risks and contribute to greater inclusion, belonging and success at school,โ€ the statement says.

Watch Pierre Poilievreโ€™s full speech at the Conservative policy convention in Quebec City:

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Canada warns LGBTQ citizens about traveling to US

Advisory notes states have implemented anti-LGBTQ laws

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Deputy Canadian Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, center, wearing white sweater, at this year's Toronto Pride. (Photo courtesy of the Canadian government)

Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Deputy Canadian Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said that Global Affairs Canada has updated its travel advisory for the U.S. for LGBTQ Canadians. 

The new advisory reads โ€œsome states have enacted laws and policies that may affect 2SLGBTQI+ persons. Check relevant state and local laws,โ€ and directs people to a web page that CBC reported provides broad information on how members of the community could be targeted while travelling to foreign countries.

That advice tells travelers to beware of laws that criminalize same-sex activities and relationships, or target people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

That advice also warns travelers that laws to curb vagrancy and public nuisance incidents could also be used to target them in an effort โ€œto criminalize 2SLGBTQI+ people.โ€

During the press briefing Freeland said she supported the decision to update the travel advice but would not comment on whether U.S. President Joe Biden was informed before the update was made.

โ€œEvery Canadian government, very much including our government, needs to put at the center of everything we do the interests and the safety of every single Canadian, and of every single group of Canadians,โ€ she said. โ€œThatโ€™s what weโ€™re doing now. Thatโ€™s what weโ€™re always going to do.โ€

Freeland also told reporters that as a former foreign affairs minister, sheโ€™s confident that travel advisories appearing on the Global Affairs Canada website are โ€œdone very professionally.โ€

โ€œWe have professionals in the government whose job is to look carefully around the world and to monitor whether there are particular dangers to particular groups of Canadians. Thatโ€™s their job and itโ€™s the right thing to do,โ€ the deputy prime minister added.

In a media statement released by Global Affairs Canada, the department said:

โ€œSince the beginning of 2023, certain states in the U.S. have passed laws banning drag shows and restricting the transgender community from access to gender affirming care and from participation in sporting events. The information is provided to enable travelers to make their own informed decisions regarding destinations. Outside Canada, laws and customs related to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics can be very different from those in Canada.โ€

The American Civil Liberties Union is tracking 495 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S. for the 2023 legislative year in over half of the U.S., a majority that would impact LGBTQ Canadian travelers.

Accurate IDs

These bills attempt to limit the ability to update gender information on IDs and records, such as birth certificates and driverโ€™s licenses. This puts transgender people at risk of losing jobs, facing harassment and other harms. Trans, intersex and nonbinary people need IDs that accurately reflect who they are to travel, apply for jobs, and enter public establishments without risk of harassment or harm.

Civil rights

These bills attempt to undermine and weaken nondiscrimination laws by allowing employers, businesses and even hospitals to turn away LGBTQ people or refuse them equal treatment.

Free speech and expression

Despite the safeguards of the First Amendmentโ€™s right to free expression, politicians are fighting to restrict how and when LGBTQ people can be themselves, limiting access to books about them and trying to ban or censor performances like drag shows.

Healthcare

These bills target access to medically-necessary health care, like Medicaid, for transgender people. Many of these bills ban affirming care for trans youth, and can create criminal penalties for providing this care. These bills exempt identical treatments offered to cisgender youth or are forced onto intersex youth. Other bills block funding to medical centers that offer gender-affirming care, or block insurance coverage of health care for transgender people.

Public accommodations

Public accommodations bills seek to prohibit transgender people from using facilities like public bathrooms and locker rooms. Everyone should have access to these spaces, no matter their gender identity or gender expression. If you canโ€™t use the restroom, you canโ€™t fully participate in work, school, and public life.

Schools and education

State lawmakers are trying to prevent trans students from participating in school activities like sports, force teachers to out students, and censor any in-school discussions of LGBTQ people and issues. Instead of limiting resources, education, and opportunities, our schools should protect and support all students to learn and thrive.

Other anti-LGBTQ bills

These bills donโ€™t quite fit in any of the other categories, but nonetheless target the rights of LGBTQ people. Examples include bans on marriage and bills preempting local nondiscrimination protections.

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