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Barrie City Hall becomes stage for dueling protests on gender identity in schools

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Hundreds gathered outside City Hall in Barrie on Wednesday to protest and counter-protest sexual orientation and gender identity curricula in Ontario schools.

A group called '1MillionMarch4Children' said its participants united nationwide to protect children from gender ideology in schools.

Gender identity in the realm of education has garnered significant attention recently. The increased focus follows the adoption of gender and pronoun policies in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, which mandate parental consent for students under 16 seeking to modify their provided names and/or pronouns while attending school.

The Ontario teachers' unions have denounced the rallies, with the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) stating, "ETFO strongly condemns this week's planned protests and calls on the government and school boards to do the same."

Many in attendance in Barrie held signs reading, 'Stop Grooming Children,' 'Let Our Kids Be Kids,' and 'Kids Need Education Not Indoctrination' at the heated rally where protestors screamed and chanted.

One protestor, who didn't want to give her name, said she was there to protect the kids. "Stop the sexualization of kids," she said.

Hundreds of people attend competing protests at City Hall in Barrie, Ont., on Wed., Sept. 20, 2023. (CTV News/Rob Cooper)

Counter-protestors held signs reading, 'You Can't Stop Kids From Growing Up Queer, You Can Only Stop Them From Trusting You,' and 'Inclusive Education is Suicide Prevention' to support LGBTQ2S+ communities.

Another protestor chanted, "Trans rights are human rights," while a man yelled at her, "Leave our kids alone!"

Barrie resident and founder of the first trans centre in Canada, Jayce Carver, attended the rally at City Hall, saying there is too much misinformation.

"I'm loving to see the counter-protest for my queer siblings and trans siblings because we can't just allow the miseducation to continue. I feel like all these folks are here because they've been fed misinformation around what happens to children who are trans," Carver said. "Everybody is worried about children, and the fact is we're all worried about the same thing, but nobody is communicating to actually help the children."

Hundreds of people attend competing protests at City Hall in Barrie, Ont., on Wed., Sept. 20, 2023. (CTV News/Rob Cooper)

Leighton Brown said he was protesting to support parents of school-aged children, adding he was confused about why there was a counter-protest.

"The issue has nothing to do with trans rights. It has to do with parental rights, and so it's two completely different issues that are being spoken about," he noted. "I'm standing in support of parents being able to have a say in what's happens in the classrooms and knowing exactly what's being taught to children."

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce released a message early Wednesday morning noting the government's commitment to the safety and well-being of children in schools, "irrespective of your faith, heritage, sexual orientation, or colour of skin."

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