In response to local protests around Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) teaching in schools, Mayor Julius Bloomfield has made it clear Penticton is an inclusive city.
Both an anti-SOGI rally and a pro-SOGI rally took place in Gyro Park Wednesday morning. SOGI guidelines, as mandated by the province, teach inclusion to students on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Some critics of the guidelines who showed up to the protests claim that teachers and schools are "grooming" children and allegedly pushing homosexual and trans ideas.
The counter-protest, called "Love is Louder than Hate," featured a diverse crowd touting the importance of acknowledging gender identities in schools, with some signs reading: "SOGI Saves Lives."
Mayor Bloomfield's unedited statement is as follows:
"The City of Penticton is proud to be a welcoming and inclusive community. As an employer, we strive to make our workplaces a safe place for everyone and reject all forms of discrimination.
As a council, we have been steadfast in denouncing all forms of hate whether based on race, religion or gender.
Part of living in a democracy is the ability to peacefully protest and that also allows others the ability to offer a different perspective. Today's rally and counter-rally touch on sensitive issues.
As mayor, I want to send a clear message: Penticton will always stand for equality and inclusion, for allowing people to be true to themselves.
There is simply no room for ideas, no matter how they are cloaked, that would seek to divide our community."