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Crowd of 500 at anti-SOGI protest in Chilliwack chants ‘leave our kids alone’

Anti-SOGI crowd was shoulder-to-shoulder with rainbow-clad counter-protesters blaring Pride playlist

T-shirts for the anti-SOGI march in Chilliwack only had four words on them: “Leave our kids alone.”

An estimated 500 people showed up at Five Corners in downtown Chilliwack on Wednesday (Sept. 20), with most of them there to answer the call to join the 1 Million March 4 Children.

Many said their aim was to “stop the sexualization” of children, which they attribute to the classroom resources in public schools known as SOGI, or “sexual orientation, gender identity.”

When anti-SOGI marchers got to Five Corners they found rainbows and pro-SOGI messages chalked on the ground, and rainbow-flag and rainbow-umbrella toting counter-protesters, with a Pride playlist blasting from a boombox.

The marchers started signing petitions, checking out homeschooling info, and chanting “leave our kids alone,” over and over.

“We march for their innocence and their future,” read one sign.

Marcher Susan Meier said the “sexual ideology” of SOGI should be left out of public schools.

“But I want to say I love gays. I love transgenders. I have a gay daughter who’s married to a woman. They have a son. I love them all. But let’s leave the sexual ideology out of the schools. Let’s operate on love, not hate, and bring back the rights to the parents.”

A large pickup truck with a massive Canadian flag started blaring the Pink Floyd song ‘Another Brick in the Wall,’ with the lyrics, “We don’t need no education…” and, “Teacher, leave them kids alone.”

Anti-SOGI marcher Melanie Wall wore a ‘Leave Our Kids Alone’ T-shirt to the 1 Million March 4 Children protest at Five Corners on Sept. 20, 2023. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Marcher Melanie Wall said she showed up to the march because SOGI goes “against all of my beliefs.”

Asked what her problem was with SOGI materials, Wall added: “The idea that you can change your gender; or that sexuality is not the same as biological sex.”

Former school trustee Barry Neufeld stood across the road from the crowd wearing a sandwich-board sign that read: “Gender-affirming care destroys kids’ lives. It’s the new sexual lobotomy.”

Former school trustee Barry Neufeld walks along Yale Road towards Five Corners during the 1 Million March 4 Children on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. On the back of his sandwich board, it read “Gender-affirming care destroys kids’ lives. It’s the new sexual lobotomy.” (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress) Former school trustee Barry Neufeld walks along Yale Road towards Five Corners during the 1 Million March 4 Children on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Despite the organizers claiming “this march isn’t anti-gay or anti-trans,” the event saw messages of pre-emptive support going out to the LGBTQ2S+ community in Chilliwack the day before the march.

‘Love is Louder - Healing Through Community’ event was organized as an antidote to the march, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Sardis Park, put on by Hi Neighbour Sardis Community Initiative by United Way.

“United Way of BC and The B.C. Federation of Labour stand firmly and proudly with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in the face of a surge in anti-trans hate speech and actions across the country,” organizers of Love is Louder said.

“The only way we can move through this force of hate and discrimination and heal is by being together, creating spaces for conversation, community, belonging and togetherness, and justice action.”

The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association put out a statement on Sept. 19 reaffirming a commitment to protect schools as safe and inclusive spaces, and defending SOGI.

“Teachers strongly believe that all students have the right to a safe and inclusive learning environment. We reject discrimination and bullying in all forms, and we are dedicated to supporting and advocating for our LGBTQ2S+ members, students, and families,” said Reid Clark, president of the teachers’ association.

SOGI materials ensure a respectful and inclusive environment in the classroom.

Anti-SOGI and pro-SOGI groups stood shoulder to shoulder at Five Corners in Chilliwack where an estimated 500 people gathered both for and against the 1 Million March 4 Children on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

“Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI)-inclusive resources should not be controversial,” Clark said. “They are about ensuring that all students and their families are reflected in school materials. They also protect students and staff against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, in accordance with the BC Human Rights Code — provincial law.”

It’s about students feeling safe.

“We believe that every student has the right to feel safe, valued, and supported in our schools. By affirming our commitment to SOGI-inclusive resources, we are sending a powerful message that we stand with our LGBTQ2S+ students and families and that we will do everything in our power to create an inclusive and accepting educational environment.”

RELATED: Anti-SOGI march to fill Five Corners

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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