LGBTQ+ activists and allies are ramping up to protest tonight’s anti-SOGI (Sexual orientation and gender identity) event in the District of Oak Bay’s Windsor Pavilion.
‘The Erosion of Freedom’ event speaks openly against the SOGI 123 curriculum and markets itself as a speaker event with organizer Jenn Smith discussing how transgender politics in school and society is “undermining” freedom and “harming women and children.”
Victoria is the event’s final Vancouver Island stop after hosting in Campbell River, Duncan and Nanaimo.
Since the Greater Victoria public learned of the event, the Oak Bay has received backlash for allowing its space to be used for an event many say promotes hatred and puts the local transgender community at risk.
A number of individuals and community groups took to Facebook to express their frustrations, including the Victoria Pride Society which said: “These events are spreading misinformation that promote hatred towards the transgender community while advocating for the regression of transgender rights and an end to support for trans and gender non-binary youth in BC schools.”
Jonathan Degenhardt, the Men’s Wellness Program Coordinator for AIDS Vancouver Island posted a letter he sent to the District of Oak Bay council: “The consequences of giving this person a platform to spew their misinformation are going to be extremely harmful, especially to those youth who are navigating who they are and how they fit into this world,” he said. “By allowing this event to occur in Oak Bay, you are saying that you do not care about trans and gender non-conforming youth who attend Oak Bay High School or Willows Elementary.”
Mayor Kevin Murdoch asked the community to stop making angry phone calls to front line staff, and added the controversial event to a council meeting agenda, before council ultimately decided the event would not be cancelled.
“We recognize it as controversial but have no legal reason to cancel it,” Murdoch told Black Press for a previous article. “It’s voluntary attendance. The decision is looking at this by the rules, do we have the right to cancel it? No.”
Numerous counter-protests have popped up since, including one hosted by the mayor himself.
The ‘Mayor’s Gathering for Inclusion and Hope’ is being held at Willows Park at 6:30 p.m.
“I believe we need to stand up and confirm that our society is an accepting and welcoming society for all,” the event states. “We will find, as a community, a way to show our welcome of diversity, particularly for the LGBTQ+ community.”
Another counter protest, created by Greater Victoria School District trustee Ryan Painter, is set to be held at the Windsor Park from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. with the goal of making sure Oak Bay knows “hatred and anti-trade bigotry has no place in [the] community.”
Before the counter protest, an LGBTQ+ group is hosting an ‘impromptu rainbow picnic’ in the park’s cricket grounds.
‘The Erosion of Freedom’ event starts at 6:45 p.m.