A quiet Saanich street unexpectedly became the scene of a showdown in B.C.’s cultural war over sex education Sunday evening.
According to Saanich Police and eye witness information relayed to the Saanich News, a group of individuals advocating for the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual and Queer (LGTBQ+) protested outside Saanich’s City of Light Church in the 500 block of Obed Avenue Sunday evening when it hosted a speaker opposed to the provincial Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) 123 program. Accepted in all provincial school districts, it assists in helping educators build inclusive environments for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
While the Saanich News could not independently the identity of the speaker, the website of controversial anti-SOGI speaker Jenn Smith lists the church’s address as part of a posted summary of Smith’s talk titled “The Erosion of Freedom: How Transgender Politics in School and Society is Undermining Our Freedom and Harming Women & Children.”
The Saanich News reached out to Smith with a series of questions, but did not receive a reply by deadline. Smith identifies as transgender, but believes the SOGI 123 program includes anti-Christian values. Smith has fought against the inclusion of SOGI by speaking in front of school boards and making appearances across the province.
Smith appeared in Oak Bay last month, where hundreds of protesters drowned out anti-SOGI speakers including Smith. The night ended with Oak Bay Police shutting down the event as arguments escalated to a point of pushing and shoving. That evening was also the starting point of a dispute between Smith and Greater Victoria School Trustee Ryan Painter, whom Smith has threatened with legal action.
Smith’s appearance, if confirmed, was not necessarily unexpected, with Smith having promised to return to the area, while leaving open the location of the appearance.
“As I understand, that [anti-SOGI] rally was initially scheduled to happen in Fernwood but they [organizers] had to change venues at the last minute,” said Sgt. Julie Fast of Saanich Police. She said about 50 people attended the rally inside the church, with some 50 pro-SOGI supporters outside the building.
“Police stood by just to ensure the safety of all those in attendance and the surrounding neighbourhood,” said Fast. “At about 10 p.m. the rally ended. It was a peaceful event with no incidents of violence or property damage.”
The political geography of Sunday’s anti-SOGI rally was not without symbolism, as the church lies in the riding of federal MP Randall Garrison, who is openly gay and serves as his party’s critic for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and transsexual issues.
When Smith appeared in Oak Bay on May 2, Garrison was among the featured speakers against Smith.
— Randall Garrison (@r_garrison) May 3, 2019