A small protest on Friday afternoon (Nov. 17) brought the anti-SOGI movement to an Abbotsford school.
Regular protests – some small and others involving hundreds of people – have been taking place for weeks at local parks and outside city hall, the school district office and even The Abbotsford News.
But Friday’s peaceful gathering occurred along the public sidewalk in front of Harry Sayers elementary on Blueridge Drive, where protesters held signs with statements such as “Children belong to parents NOT to government” and “No one else can take care of kids better than parents.”
The reason for the protest was outlined in a social media post.
“Please join us to demand action against the teacher who tried to trick Grade 2 students to cast a doubt on their gender identity, to begin priming them for eventual surgery, and hence destroying a perfectly healthy child as well as the entire family,” the post stated.
No further explanation was provided.
The post also stated that this would not be the only protest at the elementary school and provided a link for a website calling for the resignation of BC Education Minister Rachna Singh.
School district spokesperson Kayla Stuckart said no formal complaints have been brought to Harry Sayers administrators.
“Building positive relationships between parents and educators is a cornerstone of our school district,” she said.
“We encourage open dialogue and welcome any concerns regarding classroom content or teacher conduct to be formally addressed through our established channels, which includes speaking directly with the school principal.”
The protests first began in mid-September, when hundreds gathered in Jubilee Park to rally against SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) 123.
The B.C. Ministry of Education-approved classroom resource “helps schools create safe, caring and inclusive learning environments for all students regardless of their race, culture, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression,” according to the SOGI website.
The protests have since continued at various venues, including on Sept. 26 at the public board of education meeting. The gathering of about 300 people resulted in school trustees and staff being escorted by police from the building because of fears for their safety.
The board has since held its meetings online.
Similar protests have taken place in neighbouring communities and across the country, with participants urging the elimination of SOGI in the schools, saying it encourages kids to change genders or undergo gender-affirming surgery.
The BC Teachers’ Federation issued a written statement to address the protest in Abbotsford on Friday afternoon and the continuing opposition to SOGI 123.
“It’s disappointing to see another school targeted by protesters spreading disinformation, but we take heart knowing there is broad support in BC for inclusive education. All students and staff deserve safe and supportive school environment,” the BCTF said.
The organization said the BC Human Rights Code was amended in 2016 to ensure that gender identity and expression are protected under the code, and “school districts have a duty to enforce that.”
The BCTF said all 60 school districts across the province have SOGI-inclusive codes of conduct and policies in place.
“SOGI-inclusive education is not about telling kids who they should be; it is about welcoming students into classrooms exactly as they are. It is not about indoctrination or keeping secrets from parents.
“It is a recognition that all students deserve to see themselves and their families reflected in lessons, language and practices. It is about treating everyone with dignity and respect.”
The BCTF said kids who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ will tell different people at different times, and sometimes their parents are the last to know.
“Forcing kids to come out to people who they have not chosen to, and/or before they are ready – as these so-called ‘parents’ rights’ rallies push for – is not the answer. It threatens to take a safe, sometimes lifesaving, space away from students,” the organization said.