Police are investigating a small number of traffic complaints and one assault that stemmed from the anti-gender ideology protest and counter-protest in Whitehorse.
The sheer number of counter-protesters in support of 2SLGBTQIA+ rights outshined the protesters who showed up for the “Million March 4 Children” in the Yukon’s capital on Sept. 20. The demonstration was planned for weeks and involved a march from Shipyards Park to the Yukon legislature.
A few hundred counter-protesters turned up on the sidewalk along the west side of Second Avenue from Hanson Street to past Hawkins Street in a faceoff against dozens of protesters outside the legislative building.
The protest was planned and promoted in cities across Canada this week to take a stand against pronouns, gender ideology, mixed bathrooms, and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) curriculum in schools.
Yukon RCMP communications declined to elaborate on who was involved in the assault while the investigation is underway.
While RCMP described the event as peaceful, and no arrests occurred in Whitehorse, arrests were reported in Halifax, Vancouver and Victoria. In the nation’s capital, Ottawa police wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that three arrests were made for public incitement of hatred, one for assault and another for obstructing police.
Elohdie Dimsdale, a recent high-school graduate and counter-protester in Whitehorse, called the “Million March 4 Children” a ridiculous protest against human rights, expressing disappointment in seeing former colleagues from schools across the way.
Prior to the protest, the Yukon Liberal and NDP caucuses, the City of Whitehorse and Mayor Laura Cabott, the Yukon Child and Youth Advocate Office, unions and Porter Creek Secondary School’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance were among individuals and groups making clear their opposition to the protest via position statements.
The protesters the News spoke with declined to provide their names. They said the local protest was arranged on a grassroots level, with “different groups” coming together without any specific organizational lead.
Prior to the march over to the legislature, someone who took the lead at Shipyards Park helped the relatively small group come up with chants and reminded the roughly two dozen protesters gathered at the park to remain peaceful and non-aggressive. The group was met by a few more dozen protesters outside of the legislative building.
One protester, who is not a parent or a grandparent, told the News that “children need protection.”
“It’s the children, and who’s responsible for them?” the protester said.
“Ultimately, it’s the parents. Government steps in if it’s, you know, with social services, if there’s an issue, but you know, more likely they should be stepping in with issues with people trying to go behind parent’s backs. I mean, this doesn’t seem right.”
The protester said children have been “sexualized” for “far too long.” He wants to see the Yukon government follow the lead of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick premiers. He wants the territorial government to clarify what is and isn’t allowed to be taught in schools.
Porter Creek Secondary School teacher Astrid Sidaway-Wolf, who is on maternity leave, brought her four-month-old infant to the baby’s first counter-protest. Sidaway-Wolf decided to be part of the movement for “love and acceptance, rather than any sort of hate or marginalization” to support her students, children, colleagues, friends and loved ones.
Sidaway-Wolf believes sexual orientation and gender identity should be part of teaching at schools.
“As a teacher, I think that any education that encourages people to think critically and expand their perspectives and expand their mind is important,” she said.
“We’re not attempting to brainwash anyone.”
Yukon schools adhere to the British Columbia curriculum, with adaptions on Yukon content and Yukon First Nations ways of knowing and doing, per the Yukon government’s website. An online search of the curriculum indicates that, for example, students learn about “healthy sexual decision making” and recognizing and identifying personal, social and cultural contexts, values and perspectives including sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the spring sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, MLAs in the House voted 15-0 in favour of requiring all territorial schools to have safe spaces in the form of activities and organizations dedicated to 2SLGBTQIA+ students.
The Education department is partnering with the British Columbia-based charitable organization ARC Foundation to carry out the SOGI 1 2 3 program, which Education Minister Jeanie McLean described as a set of tools, lesson plans and learning modules that “make schools welcome to students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”
The Yukon government recently updated its SOGI policy, which was first introduced in 2012 and mandates using people’s preferred pronouns in schools.
One protester argued children belong to the parent, not the school. Another protester suggested the protest was about protecting children from “mutilation.”
“It has nothing to do with the gay community. I got lots of gay friends,” the protester said.
Jonas Smith, who stood among protesters, refused an interview with the News. Smith previously ran for the Yukon MP seat as an independent candidate in the 2021 federal elections, in which he received 13.6 per cent of the vote, after getting booted from running for the Conservative Party of Canada for his vaccine stance.
Wren Nicolardi, a spokesperson for the counter-protesters, indicated some supporters of the counter-protest were too frightened to even show up that day. They said their side of the road was trying to show trans youth and queer kids that they matter as part of addressing the national protests.
“They have safe people to talk to, if they’re experiencing gender confusion or any distress in life,” Nicolardi said.
Their side supports the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools because “we’ve seen studies […] that SOGI education in schools creates better outcomes for all kids — queer, trans, straight — all kids,” they said.
Nicolardi added that the objective isn’t to change a child’s gender identity.
“We just want everyone to feel safe,” they said.
In the lead up to the event, Nicolardi said some people in their camp had been tearing down “Million March 4 Children” posters for a reason.
“These posters we felt had to come down because they explicitly target people that don’t fully have a full understanding of what is being protested and can pull people in that are in the middle or in more of a neutral stance and become more extreme in their transphobic and queerphobic action. And so, we took them down,” they said.
“That’s not something we would typically do, but this felt like leaving them up was dangerous for the community.”
— With files from Matthew Bossons
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com