Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Record of my Second Visit to a Queen’s Park Protest: June, 2015

This is the second blog post I have made on my observations at the Queen's Park protests.

This is the first post I made with my first visit.

Abstract: Observations I made and have of a visit to Queen's Park to see the protesters and make some observations.

The Blog:

It started out as a warm day in late spring; I was on my way downtown to visit Queen’s Park to observe the rally against the sex-ed curriculum.  I didn’t know what to expect as I arrived – early – to the venue and saw that there were people setting up speakers which were taken from rented trucks.
There were at least six school buses of people who came to Queen’s Park; they were apparently from Thorncliffe Park – where Wynne’s office is located.  The fact that the people attending came from a fair distance (by bus) shows how strongly they felt about the issue.

Since this issue focuses on education, there were many families there with children.  The kids ran around the picnic blankets and made a lot of noise and so gave the impression that the somewhat historic nature of the event was lost on them.

There were signs in abundance: My child, my choice and Wynne Resign Now; there were also flags for the occasion, which were designed to go in car windows. There was regular shouting of slogans and it was clear that people felt strongly they had to have their voices heard – one way or another.
There were a few people by two o’clock, when this event was to start.  They all had kids in tow.

There was a lot of strong feeling against the curriculum and there were shouted slogans.  One such slogan was ‘Wynne resign now…’ and another was ‘my child, my choice…’

One estimate put the number of people attending the event at five thousand; my estimate would be two thousand to twenty five hundred.  The actual number is probably between these two estimates.
There were loudspeakers set up on the grounds of Queen’s Park; there were also barriers blocking access to the steps of Queen’s Park.  There were usually three QP police officers behind the barricades at any given time.

It is a measure of the control exerted by these officers that when someone attempted to cordon off the stage and speaking area with ropes tied around light standards, they were immediately stopped.  After some haggling, the ropes were ordered removed by the organizers. 

There were speeches made by attendees; there was so much other noise I had a hard time understanding what they were saying.  However, what was being said was repetitive and to the point: calls for Wynne to resign; calls for referenda on the sex ed classes and calls for the whole thing to be scrapped.

The talks were short on material but long on passionate gestures.  However, one person did point out that under the curriculum, parents had the right to remove their children from the classes they disagreed with.

Except those classes which were optionally mandatory.  That is to say, if a parent tries to remove a child from a class they disagree with on the basis of religion, the religion must give way to the education.  As well, there are some classes which, were the children to be removed, would bring a charge of discrimination down on the parents for removing their child.

So you have the option of freedom, but it will cost you.

The media representation seemed sparse to me; since the sex ed curriculum was a done deal, it has now become a dog bites man story.  Yet there was a CITY TV crew there; as well as a unit from a gay media outlet – and I cannot now remember the name of it.

There were six people opposed to the opposition of the sex-ed courses.  Two of them were dressed as nuns with beards.  These two people were accompanied by a third person, and the three were stationed in the centre of the protest area. 

I observed numerous parents scolding these attendees, who would clash with the critics.  It soon became clear that the ‘nun’s’ object was not dialogue – which would have been impossible with the volume of the speakers – but to provoke people into saying things which could be ridiculed.  I say this because of the tone of response when someone would try to make a point against these ‘crashers’ as I thought of them.

Given that they were men dressed as nuns, they certainly looked out of place and that attracted attention.

As well, there were three other people who appeared, holding a rainbow flag.  They wanted to stand behind the speakers near the steps, but were moved off to one side.  They held their flag there for about an hour that I could tell.  One person was dressed in a clerical collar and she took a great deal of criticism.  (I found out later that this was an Ontario MPP).  It is interesting that they chose to stand near the twenty to twenty five bicycle police who were arranged to one side of the steps of Queen’s Park; the ‘subliminal’ message was that these three were in danger and hence, need of protection.

I did not see any violence of a physical sort at this meeting.

I was there to observe and to try to understand what the motivation was for the parents.

As serious as this social clash is, it is clear there is another underlying frustration.  The voters of Ontario have heard nothing but one scandal after another; gas plants; questionable manoeuvres of candidates; e-health; ORNGE and my personal favourite, when Wynne called McNaughton a ‘homophobe’ on the floor of the Ontario Legislature.

The presence of these parents – and supporters – suggests not so much a dis-satisfaction with the way the sex-ed curriculum has been handled as much as an indicator of an overall dis-satisfaction with the Ontario government.

There were calls that the curriculum was ‘grooming’ kids, and there were points made about the courses teaching children things that – if they followed through by doing them – would get them the attention of Children’s Aid.  In addition to this, I heard a certain disgraced educator’s name numerous times in relation to the courses.  It was claimed his writings led to the way the curriculum was structured.

This seems to me to be very bad optics, whether that person had any direct contact with creating the curriculum or not. 

It was also pointed out – although I do not have the data to back this up – that Children’s Aid has a manual which states that teaching children to masturbate is considered child abuse.  I was given a few places on the Internet to look up these documents – which I have not done at this time.

There were some very passionate statements made; and it was clear that emotions were sensitive about this issue.  It is also clear from some of the participants that they are determined that this issue is not going away any time soon.

However, given the homophobe word thrown around, and given that Wynne seems to have dug in her heels on this issue, it is clear that we now have a battle of wills.  The problem is that the will of the people – the parents – has already been set aside.  All that needs happen is for the word homophobe to be trotted out.  Even worse, what happens if speaking out against this curriculum becomes defined as ‘abuse’ or ‘hate speech’? 

By sidestepping on this issue, the Wynne government is creating more problems for itself.  That is why McGuinty backed off after three days.  The fact that the Wynne regime is insisting this curriculum go through suggests she does not care about public opinion; she is in power until 2018 or so and therefore can safely ignore the population of Ontario.

Finally one parent pointed out we already hear of children who have been abused before the sex ed curriculum was created.  She asked out loud after this course of study was ‘liberalized’; what would happen afterward?  My question is, if a child learns about anal or oral sex in grade seven – when if I understand it correctly, they are 12 or 13, what happens if they put that into practice?  The statutory law in Ontario says that 14 is the minimum age at which children – teens – could ‘legally’ have sex.  So the kids are apparently learning something which, if they did it, would get them attention from Children’s Aid. (Unless there is a plan to lower the age to twelve…)

Even more pressing is this question: what would happen if a child learns about oral or anal sex – and realizes they have been systematically abused at the moment they learn this?  Is there any provision in the curriculum to handle a child hurt in this way?  In our feel-good, do it because you want to culture, probably not.  That is why I say we are all walking wounded in the sexual revolution.

What seems to be clear is that there is no room for an enthusiastic no, nor is there room for a serious ethical discussion around this issue.  Such an issue would examine the social structures of sex and how it is perceived in various cultures – and respected on that basis in and of itself.  As it is, the pressure to get students learning about sex in this way speaks volumes more about the mindset of those trying to push it through than of those who are resisting what they see as a questionable set of learning tools.

It is clear who has the social power in this situation; it is not clear what the outcomes and results will be if students start learning these issues the way they are presented.  If these courses are not good for the students, would they be scrapped, and how would you measure those boundaries?  There is only room for an enthusiastic yes to this provision, not a cautious wait a moment or an enthusiastic no.  I think that is the crux of the issue in the minds of parents: they have seen questionable things happen in other issues; now they see their children as being targeted.

And once a parent sees that, even in their imagination, they will tend to see that same threat 
everywhere unless it is proven there is no possible threat, and even then they would be cautious.  

Let’s hope that if this is the case, then Ontario voters will remember this imposed social chaos when it comes time to vote again.  The irony of course is that the Wynne government isn’t getting an enthusiastic yes to this curriculum, and they are pushing ahead with it anyway…what does the curriculum have to say about this state of affairs?

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