Rallies clash over ‘SOGI’ gender program in schools

Protesters clashed verbally, and with signs and noise-makers Saturday over a school program that expresses support for gay, lesbian and transgender students.

In duelling rallies on the lawn of the legislature, several hundred people shouted over each other, defending and opposing B.C.’s sexual orientation and gender identity program — or SOGI.

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The program was introduced into schools in 2016 with the goal of helping LGBTQ students and putting an end to bullying that targets students on the basis of gender identity.

Burnaby school trustee candidate Laura-lynn Tyler Thompson, one of the leaders of the anti-SOGI rally, tried to speak using a microphone, but was drowned out.

“I do know exactly what I am talking about,” she told CHEK News. “They are asking every child to place themselves. Am I a boy? Am I a girl? Am I in the middle? They are telling every child that they are gender fluid. That is what we oppose,” Thompson said.

The Canadian Council for Faith and Family, which organized the anti-SOGI protest, said government and the media are not hearing its concerns. “The largest demographic in our society was totally ignored in the creation of this program, thus [the SOGI program] is anti-democratic at its core,” said organizer Jenn Smith.

A contingent of Victoria and Saanich police officers worked to keep things peaceful on the legislature lawn, where SOGI supporters appeared to outnumber SOGI opponents.

Vic West Elementary School teacher Pat Cerrico said people speaking against SOGI don’t understand that it’s meant to protect students. “I see a lot of misinformation. One sign in particular: ‘Stop sexualizing children.’ It’s not about sex. It isn’t. It’s about families, and accepting them, and safe spaces.”

In a joint statement responding to the rallies, the provincial government and teachers defended SOGI, saying it helps LGBTQ students and tries to stop bullying that targets a child’s gender identity.

The province is committed to ensuring every school is a safe place for all students, the statement said.

“In 2016, the B.C. Human Rights Code was amended to ensure that gender identity and expression are protected under the code. There is no room for any type of discrimination in our schools,” the statement said.

— With Vancouver Sun and CHEK News

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