There is no middle ground here.

The anti-SOGI 1,2,3 rally attempts to get underway, but protesters are successful in delaying the start by more than thirty minutes.

“No, we have no reason to move. We have the right to assemble wherever we want to assemble,” said Ryan Painter, a Greater Victoria school board candidate. “We have freedom of assembly. We’re staying here to support SOGI 1 2 3.”

It’s a controversial policy adopted by the province in 2016 that focuses on anti-bullying in BC’s schools. “SOGI 1 2 3” is an LGBTQ-inclusive strategy, and it has many detractors.

Burnaby School Trustee candidate Laura-lynn Tyler Thompson leads the anti-SOGI 1 2 3 rally, but is drowned out by protesters.

“I do know exactly what I am talking about. They are asking every child to place themselves, am I a boy? am I a girl? am I in the middle? They are telling every child that they are gender fluid. That is what we oppose,” Thompson said.

The pro-SOGI 1 2 3 protesters easily outnumber their counterparts. And a significant police presence from both Saanich, and Victoria work to separate the two groups, and keep the peace.

But this is a deep divide, and during the speeches, few appear to be listening.

Vic West Elementary school teacher Pat Cerrico said many at the rally don’t understand that the SOGI policy is meant to protect students.

“I see a lot of misinformation.  One sign in particular, “Stop sexualizing children”. It’s not about sex. It isn’t. It’s about families, and accepting them, and safe spaces,” Thompson said, pointing at a sign on the legislature grounds.

“It is sexualizing, and very dangerous for children.” “Children should not be sexualized.”

Despite the gulf between the two sides, the opposing rallies ended peacefully.

Now a graduate, Cetareah Mohsenzadeh-Green said her experience is that SOGI 1 2 3 was a positive experience for her.  “It’s important for everyone who’s in school to feel included, and safe, and loved, and that’s why we are here,” Mohsenzadeh-Green said.

Mary Griffin