UPDATE: 2:10 p.m.
Protesters and opponents gathered throughout the B.C. Interior Wednesday, butting heads over Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policies in schools.
SOGI policies are focused on teaching students about diversity and inclusion. Some critics claim it’s "grooming" children and pushing an agenda, while counter-protesters say it saves lives.
In Kamloops, roughly 200 people gathered near the courthouse, the majority being counter-protesters.
Two individuals argued in the crowd over the protest, with one saying that they love trans kids.
“We love them, too,” an anti-SOGI protester said.
“You love them so you march by their school saying that they're illegitimate?” they rebutted. “That’s a lie that people are grooming them…It's not an idea. It's saying that they exist.”
Mark Haupy, an anti-SOGI protester, said he attended because he wants to bring awareness to what kids are going through in school.
“I think they're too young to be taught the things that have been taught right now, especially sexualization of minors and small children is unacceptable. I don’t think school should be doing that sort of teaching.”
In Vernon, an estimated 200-plus people showed up at City Hall and marched to Polson Park to listen to speeches. The Pride community members set up a surprise info booth at the Polson Park bandshell in response.
Kylie Walman said the group rented the bandshell not as a counter-protest, but simply to offer a safe space and information. She called it "an opportunity to have a learning session about SOGI" for those who were willing to listen.
For the most part, the two groups did not interact.
Walman even said she has some issues with SOGI – that some schools pay it "lip service" and she would like to see it strengthened.
"We want to show kids that there are people who will stand up for them," she said.
"A lot of people really just want to know about SOGI," added Nicky Dunlop.
One woman, who identified herself as a "hetero mom," said she was there because "I love my queer family." She said the issue isn't about being gay or trans, "it's about keeping our kids safe."
Numerous people just a few yards away at the anti-SOGI protest said they are not against the LGBT community, but they attended because they feel parents should make decisions on what sex education children receive, not schools.
"This has nothing to do with sexuality of adults, it's about keeping our kids safe," the protest rally heard, ironically mirroring the same message in the other camp.
One protest attendee said she was there to “protect the children... to stop the sex agenda in schools and to treat all children the same. Every single child matters, and we don't care if children want to be trans, just keep it out of the school and teach math, English, science, literature together. Get our children smart.”
A counter-protester named Brie, who is trans, said she attended to represent her community and to show love and support for others.
“To show that we can spread love, that we can be accepting of different gender identities to people who are different from ourselves. And if people are here to have a civil, respectful conversation, I'm happy to talk to them. But really, I'm just here to make our presence known in the community and let people know that that's not the only group that exists.”
In Kelowna, large crowds were on both sides of the issues, and things got heated as protestors rallied at Stuart Park. Anti-SOGI protesters blocked Castanet interviews.
As one Castanet reporter attempted to speak with an anti-SOGI protester, his camera was knocked out of his hand.
Keith Simmonds with the United Church of Canada said he attended the anti-protest because the community is concerned that “voices and movements like this send a message that being anything but heterosexual is wrong.”
“It’s teaching kids in school that families with two parents of the same gender don't exist because you don't want to talk about it,” he added. “It's sending kids a message that, who they are, who their families are, is broken and wrong, and they can't be themselves and their families can't be normal families in this culture.”
In Penticton, counter-protesters were blasting music as the other side listened to speeches from attendees.
Mary Pellicano said she came to the anti-SOGI rally with a group, and doesn’t want her children or grandchildren to be taught that "they can be anything that they want."
“It's a lie. They can't be, they have to get operated on, and they have to take hormones to be a different thing,” she claimed.
She added that she believes it shouldn’t be discussed at any grade, from kindergarten to Grade 12, as it’s an “adult conversation.”
Cain Critchlow, a member of the Penticton Foundry, said they showed up because it’s important to show that there is strong support for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth.
“If people aren't taught about things, they're never gonna learn. And if people at home aren't being taught about these things, or being shown that they're accepted, then they're gonna grow up without feeling that kind of love, and that community.”
ORIGINAL: 10:12 a.m.
Hundreds of anti-SOGI protesters and counter-protesters are taking to the streets in cities across the Interior.
Anti-SOGI protests are planned to take place Wednesday in communities across Canada, including Kamloops, Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton.
About 200 people have gathered outside the Kamloops Law Courts on Wednesday morning, the majority of them counter-protesters chanting slogans like “No more hate.”
In Kelowna, about 100 people had gathered at Stuart Park, and another 120 have gathered in Gyro Park in Penticton, where counter-protesters are blaring music.
Protesters were just beginning to gather in Vernon at 10 a.m. According to a Castanet reporter at the scene, approximately 80 people had gathered, about a dozen of whom were counter-protesters.
In Kamloops, protesters gathered at 9 a.m. with plans to march to the SD73 office on Ninth Avenue at 11 a.m. Just after 9 a.m., some protesters and counter-protesters could be seen arguing with each other along Columbia Street.
The protests were planned in opposition to SOGI guidelines, which teach inclusion to students on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Some critics of the guidelines claim that teachers and schools are "grooming" children and pushing homosexual and trans ideas onto them.
Castanet is covering the protests across the Interior. This story will be updated as more information becomes known.