“1 Million March for Children,” sounds like a march for something progressive, right? We should all care about children, their quality of life and education. This name for this march makes it sound like it’s for something that will really benefit youth and the future generation, right? Well… you would be wrong.
On Wednesday, September 20, hundreds of people gathered in New Brunswick’s three biggest cities, as well as thousands of others around Canada to protest. The subject? Sex education and the human rights of transgender youth, or as they call it “parents’ rights.”
How did this all begin?
Homophobia and transphobia are nothing new to Canada, but it seemed like things were getting better. Health P.E.I. passed a new Gender Affirming Care Policy earlier this year, and in August, Nova Scotia announced it would be doing the same. New Brunswick, on the other hand, has made very little progress, and it was here in Fredericton where much of the hate started with Blaine Higgs revising Policy 713.
What’s Policy 713?
Policy 713 was originally crafted with the noble intent of fostering an inclusive and safe environment in the classroom for younger students who are a part of the 2SLGBTQIA+. However, in May, New Brunswick’s premier Blaine Higgs initiated a review of this policy, resulting in a transformation from a safeguard for children into a breeding ground for hate, division, and discrimination.
The most significant alteration in Policy 713 is the introduction of a requirement for parental consent for students under the age of 16 to express their true selves openly and proudly. After receiving condemnation from Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Higgs defended his stance in an interview with Global TV stating, “It’s unfortunate the prime minister wouldn’t look at the big picture and understand that families’ parents play a role in the children’s upbringing.”
Trudeau’s disapproval was not the only dissenting voice, as on June 8th, 8 MLAs and 6 Cabinet Ministers chose to boycott the legislative session. Minister Jeff Carr succinctly captured the sentiment when he stated, “The people that have fought for so long for inclusivity, feel like they’re having something taken away. So, we have to be able to put ourselves in those shoes” in an interview with Global TV.
The lack of support, not just from the public but also from Higgs’ own constituents, makes it clear that he is unaware that not all parents are as kind and accepting as one might hope. Some parents supporting this revised policy do so with the aim of gaining more control over their child’s life, even if it comes at the child’s expense. This, in turn, may lead to more abusive and hate-filled households.
At the many protests around the country, there were many children, and a common theme to their signs was the phrase “I belong to my parents.” Alongside the protesters of the “1 Million March for Children,” who demanded the complete removal of Policy 713, there were counter-protesters opposing the policy’s revision. One side waved rainbow and transgender flags with signs reading “Protect trans kids,” “713 Saves lives,” and “Love isn’t wrong.” The other side waved Canadian flags and held signs that read “Stop brainwashing kids,” “Let kids be kids,” and “Biology not ideology.” One side aimed to shield queer kids, while the other sought to “protect” all children from any discussion about gender identity.
At the protest in Fredericton, Blaine Higgs appeared but was seen shaking hands and talking with one side… and it wasn’t the side with the colourful flags.
In conclusion, the revised Policy has proved just how far behind New Brunswick lags in terms of conscious morality of being, as well as gender education, and gender-affirming care. The queer and trans communities are not advocating for a radical takeover of society; they simply want to exist, feel safe, and receive the basic human respect of being addressed by the name they prefer.