Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday he never suggested that individuals concerned about their rights as parents were hateful when he issued a statement in response to the thousands who attended recent protests about “gender ideology” in schools.
Speaking to reporters at a housing announcement in Vaughan, Ont., Trudeau said the post he issued Sept. 20 on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, was about taking a stand for the LGBTQ+ community.
Trudeau said in the post that “transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia have no place in this country,” adding that the country condemns “this hate and its manifestations.”
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, whose office instructed MPs to keep quiet about the demonstrations as they were happening, days later accused him of “demonizing concerned parents.”
And the Muslim Association of Canada called on Trudeau to retract and apologize for what it called the “deeply inflammatory” comment, saying Muslim parents who participated in the protests showed up “to be heard, not to sow division.”
The association went on to say it worried such comments by Trudeau and other elected leaders could lead to increased harassment and bullying against Muslim students.
But the prime minister stood by his statement on Thursday.
“I never suggested that someone who’s concerned about parental rights is somehow filled with hate or intolerance,” said Trudeau.
“But what we need to make sure is that when we do see expressions of hatred or intolerance against Muslims, against the (LGBTQ+) community, against any Canadians, that we are firm in standing against intolerance — that we reach out to bring people together.”
The term “parental rights,” which broadly refers to the desire for parents to be involved in the decisions made by their children and by schools, has gained increased popularity in Canada over the past year among people with wide-ranging concerns about efforts undertaken to make classrooms more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students.
Such efforts include raising Pride flags and holding discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as policies that allow transgender and non-binary students to be called by their preferred name and pronoun.
The latter have become the subject of new provincial policies, first in New Brunswick and now in Saskatchewan, that require schools to seek parental permission when gender-diverse students younger than 16 ask to be called by a different name or pronoun.
It’s a requirement that teachers’ unions and provincial child advocates have said puts vulnerable students at risk.
Court challenges have followed, too. After a Saskatchewan judge granted an injunction that required the province to pause its policy, Premier Scott Moe said he would invoke the the notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to keep it in place.
Poilievre has said that Trudeau should “butt out” of such matters and “let parents raise kids.”
He has yet to say what he intends to do about a policy resolution Conservative members adopted last month asking that a future Conservative government prohibit minors experiencing gender dysphoria from receiving “life-altering” pharmaceutical or surgical treatment.
When asked on Thursday if he would retract his social-media comment, Trudeau said that he will continue to stand up for the rights of everyone, whether they be Muslim Canadians or members of the LGBTQ+ community.
He said defending one another’s rights is “core” to Canada.
“We will always stand against hatred and intolerance wherever and from whoever it comes, but anyone who’s trying to politicize or spin this as an attack on one particular group is trying to divide communities against each other.”
Thursday was not the first time Trudeau had waded into the debate.
At a community event in Calgary in July, Trudeau said much of the discord around what is taught to children about LGBTQ+ issues was being fuelled by misinformation, particularly from “the American right wing,” about what is actually in provincial school curriculums.
“They are weaponizing the issue of LGBT,” Trudeau said during a chat with some Muslim parents, which was recorded and shared on social media.
“They’re using those fears to drive a wedge.”
He went on to tell the group that his Liberal government is unequivocal in standing up for everybody’s rights and freedoms, including those of the Muslim community and LGBTQ+ youth.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2023.