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September 22, 2023

What the “One Million March for Children” was really about?

The so called “One Million March for Children” managed to mobilize families from coast to coast to coast in Canada. Let’s be clear and loud: anti-gender identity protests targeting LGBTQ2+ community do not protect children. They promote hate and mobilize families, individuals and communities against each other. A sign shared on social media from the counter-protests yesterday brought tears to my eyes: “Careful of who you hate, they might be someone you love.”

There is no space for hate in our strong diverse communities. A school must be space where a student feels included and accepted. A school must be a safe space for all students and teachers. This is what gender inclusive education is about. I don’t want to make assumptions. However, many of the parents who joined the so called “One Million March for Children” are mobilized and subjected to propaganda from the extreme right wing. Many of these protestors are being exploited by propagandists and politicians who are taking advantage of their ignorance.

Homophobic and transphobic mobilized movements and protests seem to have roots in white supremacist ideologies. It’s shocking to see minorities including some Muslims joining the anti-gender protests yesterday. Although I say ‘shocking,’ I must not be surprised. Few years ago, the conservatives managed to win visible minorities’ votes, including some Muslims, by raging a war on the liberals when the former Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne introduced the new sex-ed curriculum. This was the first update to the outdated curriculum since 1998. The proposed curriculum, in addition to including some language about gender orientation, aimed to protect children and minors from predators. The updates included information that protect students from cyberbullying and raise awareness on why it’s dangerous to share photos in addition to important topics and concepts like consent.

To win the hearts and minds of minorities, political opponents had to create an enemy, and that was the “sex-ed.” Newly immigrants who struggle to make ends meet while trying to learn a new language were easy targets for politician who exploit them. I spoke with a number of parents who had no idea of the content of the sex-ed. Their opinions were based on misinformation that was fed to them through propaganda. Many of those voted for conservatives based on one cause: ‘Doug Ford would protect children from sex-ed.’ These marginalized people ignored all issues that affect them directly such as affordable housing, basic income pilot project that was cancelled by Ford government, minimum wage, etc.

Couple of days prior to yesterday’s march I received content in Arabic based on misinformation and propaganda. Some of the fiction that was brought to my attention: ‘children are being taught sexual content in school. They are groomed.’ Students receive age-appropriate educational materials that aim to be inclusive. My question is that who is behind these posters and materials being sent to newly immigrant parents who have language barriers? Many of these parents struggle to make ends meet during the current financial crisis. Some of them have to juggle two jobs and long hours of work while learning a new language. They are being misinformed by right wing propagandists. They are being exploited by hate groups that aim to divide and conquer communities. These white supremacists are the same groups that promote Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia. Why would some Muslims rally behind them? Repeat the lie and people would believe. That’s what happened. That’s why it’s more important than to form a united front against all forms of discrimination and hate: homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, etc.

The so called “One Million March for Children” meant to divide and conquer. The battle is far from over. Extreme right-wing propagandists use social media to spread misinformation and exploit parents and mobilize them. Hate will not win and we have the same tools: use social media to promote inclusivity and share facts.

A school must be a safe space for students regardless of their gender-orientation, faith and race. There is no space for hate. An army of love will win!

Photo credit: Paula Kirman
Edmonton, Alberta, counter-protest on Wednesday September 20, 2023
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