Canadian Anti-Hate Network
A protest taking place outside of an Ontario school drew students and adult supporters who oppose an event educating students on the history of the 2SLGBTQ+ civil rights movement.
Organized by Save Canada, a youth-led Christian Nationalist, anti-transgender protest group, the protest targeted an International Day Of Pink event held by the school. The event was part of the Courage to Stand Up Tour, commemorating the Stonewall Riots – considered the catalyst for the LGBTQ+ rights movement – and featured Martin Boyce, a survivor and witness to the historic 1960s event.
The Deputy Mayor of Toronto Dr. Jennifer McKelvie, Toronto District School Board Director of Education Colleen Russell-Rawlins, and Executive Director of It Gets Better Canada Omid Razavi were also in attendance.
The event also featured a performance by Icesis Couture, the 2021 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Canada.
“Join us April 12 in protest of the York Mills Collegate [sic] Institute openly endorsing a Stonewall rioter, as well as hosting special [sic] performance from a drag queen,” a Save Canada organizer said online. “This does not belong in school. Bring a level head and the good word of the gospel.”
Stonewall refers to a bar and community hub for New York City’s LGBTQ scene in the 1960s. During that time, police would regularly raid LGBTQ+ clubs, bathhouses and hangouts. While there were many similar venues, the Stonewall Inn was unique as it welcomed drag queens, a group sometimes shunned by other establishments and punished under anti-drag and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
When the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, and began arresting patrons and employees of the Greenwich Village business – the second raid that week – onlookers from the community began pelting the officers with everything from pennies to beer bottles. Six nights of rioting would follow as a community that was criminalized and oppressed under the law took to the streets. New York held its first “Gay Pride Parade” exactly one year later.
While recently drawing a significant amount of attention for its anti-transgender actions, Save Canada members organized school walkouts in support of and were participants in the Ottawa blockade protests of 2022.
Save Canada’s website and social channels contain references to Christian Nationalism.
Christian nationalism is the belief that Canada was founded on authoritarian, conservative Christian values, that these Christian values are superior, and that our laws and government should operate on the basis of their values.
The protest in Toronto appears to have begun with a small crowd of approximately 20 people. Primarily made up of a little over a half dozen of Save Canada’s core membership, a number of adults and supporters, and several other youths who alleged to be students at the school.
Multiple live streams from Chris Dacey, a member of the Ottawa blockade protests and avid supporter of Save Canada, show a small number of counter-protesters also in attendance. Far-right media outlet Rebel News also had its anchor David Menzies on the scene, often attempting to interview the counter-protesters.
Among the supporters was Gus Stefanis, an admitted white nationalist and former leader of the neo-Nazi Canadian Nationalist Party, a since deregistered political party that included the creation of an ethnostate among its platform. Stefanis ran as one of two CNP candidates in the last federal election.
Video of the event shows that the crowds swelled outside the school around noon, when students started their lunch break. Some students voiced support for the protesters, even taking pictures with Save Canada’s 17-year-old founder.
Individuals who spoke with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network indicated mixed support among the crowd for the anti-trans protesters.
One student, wearing a shirt reading “There are two genders,” requested the megaphone from Save Canada’s young leader, and used it to repeat the phrase to a cheering crowd.
There were further cheers when a counter-protester holding the blue, pink and white transgender flag had the item ripped from their hands. The flag was returned, though met with audible boos and jeers from students.
Others could be seen telling one counter-protestor to “go home” while another told a live streamer, “They’re forcing this shit onto kids and it’s not okay.”
Some claimed that education about transgender people is “polluting our city, our school system, our minds. This next generation is going to be messed,” while others claimed if they spoke out against the event, “they just get us in trouble, they suspend us and shit.”
Witnesses further from the front of the crowd shared a different experience.
“I spoke to some protesters about that they seem to think the drag performers are half naked and the schools would allow it,” a 15-year-old student who witnessed the protests and attended the school event told the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
They added that the “short performance” contained “no sexual dancing or shaking.” Overall they felt hearing about Boyce’s experience during Stonewall provided a “compelling perspective” on history.
“Speaking to a lot of the protesters there, they don’t have an organized idea of what they’re protesting. Some said they were there to spread the word of Jesus, others said they supported the LGBTQ [community] and thought that children are getting groomed by drag queens,” they said.
Courtney Conquers, a drag performer and videographer who is part of the larger speaking tour featuring Boyce and Icesis Couture, said the protests “didn’t affect the show or event at all.”
“They were literally right outside the front door as close as the security/cops would let them get,” Conquers wrote to CAHN in a statement. “ I don’t think people really knew they were there cause the students were already inside for the day by the time the protestors showed up.”
From Conquers’ view, the “protestors were pretty mild” and said the students she spoke with felt the protest was inappropriate.
Save Canada continues to schedule and promote future protest actions.