Over 400 people congregated in front of the Roddick Gates on Sherbrooke on Sept. 20 to join the Protect our Trans Siblings counter-protest against the 1 Million March 4 Children. There was a heavy police presence on-site to separate the two sides, which later confronted each other in heated exchanges outside the offices of Quebec Premier François Legault, opposite the Roddick Gates. While scuffles did erupt on the outskirts of the protest where the two groups converged, confrontations remained verbal rather than physical, with the police stating that no arrests were made.
The Protect Our Trans Siblings counter-protest, held at 8 a.m., was part of a national counter-protest movement. Despite the early start, the crowd was full of energy, waving placards and chanting slogans such as “protect trans kids” and “toute le monde déteste les fascistes.”
The 1 Million March 4 Children movement held national demonstrations to protest “gender ideology,” which they allege is being taught in schools across Canada. The movement has gained increased traction in Canadian politics with victories in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, where Conservatives passed legislation in June of this year requiring students under 16 to get parental consent before their teachers can use their preferred first names.
Celeste Trianon—who led and helped organize the counter-protest—accused the anti-trans group of having the backing of far-right extremists who had supported the Freedom Convoy in Jan. 2022. Trianon also accused the movement of pushing hateful and exclusionary rhetoric which seeks to further silence and oppress 2SLGBTQIA+ people, especially those belonging to the trans community.
“[They are a movement] which seeks to eliminate education about trans and queer people within school settings,” Trianon said to reporters during the protest. “They are not protecting children; they are actually hurting groups of children and teenagers who are already beyond marginalized.”
Among the counter-protestors was Jamie*, a graduate student at McGill who explained why they felt the need to join the demonstration.
“Because of the rise of right-wing hate,” Jamie said to The Tribune. “I have so many trans and queer friends whose very existence is under threat right now and if we don’t take a stand, who’s next? They are the most marginalized and there is no room for hate.”
Queer McGill, the largest queer student support group at McGill, was instrumental in raising awareness about the counter-protest and providing support to counter-protestors during the event. Queer McGill Administrative Coordinator Abe Berglas, U3 Arts, told The Tribune why the group felt they had to mobilize for the counter-protest.
“Queer McGill was trying to rally the McGill community since it is taking place at the foot of our school,” Berglas said. “From our institutional background we have accumulated a fair following […] we have a thousand people subscribed to our list […] we have also been in contact with SSMU [the Students’ Society of McGill University], to get SSMU itself to release a statement which they did last night […] and I have just been emailing Queer Concordia and a few other groups on campus to connect the far branches.”
When asked how McGill supported their efforts to organize and raise awareness of the counter-protest, Berglas’ answer was resoundingly blunt: “They haven’t.”
An email was sent from Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi 48 hours after the counter-protest had occurred, stating that McGill remains “deeply committed to equity and to supporting all the members of its community, including for 2SLGBTQ+ peoples and communities.”
Trianon vowed to continue fighting to protect trans youth.
“We are fighting for the dignity and safety of trans and queer children, teens everywhere, and that is exactly why we are here protesting today,” Trianon said. “Because we want to send a message that everyone deserves to be safe going to school [….] We want to send a strong message that there is no space for hate across Canada.”
*Jamie’s name has been changed to preserve their confidentiality.