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Hundreds turn out in clash of support over SOGI in Vernon

People from both sides showed up at city hall this morning

Anti-SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) supporters trying to protest the inclusive education in schools have been met with an army of those defending human rights.

The Million March for Children, aimed at removing SOGI from schools, took to the streets Wednesday, Sept. 20 nationwide.

In Vernon, an estimated 200 people turned up at Vernon City Hall. But there was a clear divide.

While the event, including a march to Polson Park, was promoted by Hands Off Our Kids – a national group “advocating for the elimination of the SOGI ‘curriculum,’ pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in school” – those with differing opinions also came out.

“Save the Children, Leave our Kids Alone,” were among the signs waved around by more than 150, while the 30 counter-protesters had signs of their own, like “Censorship Destroys Knowledge” and “Protect Trans Kids.”

Rainbows and words of love were drawn in chalk along area sidewalks.

The counter-protesters rented out the Polson Park Bandshell ahead of time, which was ‘fenced off’ with pride flags.

And messages of SOGI support were made clear ahead of the event.

In response to the Anti Sogi Rally, the Vernon Teachers’ Association (VTA), along with School District 22 and CUPE 5523 issued a joint statement which said: “Promoting Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI)-inclusive resources should not be a subject of controversy.

“Rather, it is a matter of ensuring that all students and their families find themselves represented in educational materials. It is also about safeguarding students and staff from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, in accordance with the BC Human Rights Code — our province’s law.”

Vernon’s Trinity United Church is calling on the community to learn more about SOGI based on fact, caring and compassion.

“Many messages are floating around right now that concern some parents and other community members,” said Barry Dorval, Trinity United member and retired educator.

“SOGI 123 lessons don’t teach students how to live as an LGBTQ+ person. What they do teach is that LGBTQ+ people are a part of our community, and the learning activities reinforce the importance of schools being a safe, respectful, welcoming space for all students, including those who are gay or who choose to transition,” said Dorval.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Vernon echoed support for inclusivity, diversity, and the promotion of SOGI education.

“As a mental health organization, we see firsthand that SOGI education, gender-affirming practices and the fostering of a safe and protective environment not only promotes mental wellness, but directly saves lives,” said Jodi Cunningham, CMHA chair in an open letter.

“We call on residents of North Okanagan to join us by listening to our youth and taking a firm stand against misinformation. The first step is to become informed by learning more about SOGI through credible, legitimate sources, such as SOGI 123.”

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold said he understands the need for safe and secure learning for all, but also understands that “parents are frustrated with government imposing values on their children.

“While I believe it is the province’s responsibility to run schools, I also believe parents should be the final authority on the values and lessons that should be taught to children.”

READ MORE: Hands off our kids rallies coming to Okanagan

READ MORE: SOGI support swells in Vernon

Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

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