An annual ethnic media reception hosted by the Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne turned into chaos last Thursday when most of the journalists attending were blocked out of the venue as a result of dozens of people showing up to protest the new sex education curriculum.
Wynne’s annual ethnic media reception held at a Mississauga banquet hall was expecting about 200 ethnic media members, offering them the opportunity to talk to the Premier since they don’t usually get the chance at mainstream media events.
However, one hour before the scheduled event at 6 p.m., about 100 protestors – who are set against the new sex education curriculum that will be implemented in September this year – flocked to the venue, bringing speakers, holding signs and starting to chant for the resign of Wynne.
“I left China to live in Canada for a better education for my children, not for the new sex education curriculum.” – Protestor
Protestors ranged from many different groups including ethnic ones – Chinese, Somali, Syrian, South Asian, etc., religious ones – Christian, Islamic, Sikh, etc. and community-based ones like the Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund.
“I do this for my children,” said Gu, a Chinese mother from North York. “I have two daughters, with one six years old and another 10 years old. I don’t want my children to learn such an aggressive and graphic sex education curriculum.”
She also indicates that she is raising her daughters in a traditional Chinese family and holds firm of her native culture and morality. “I left China to live in Canada for a better education for my children, not for the new sex education curriculum,” she continues.
New Education Based on Science
The protest took a sharp turn upon the arrival of Premier Wynne. After she quickly and quietly exited her car and entered a private room beside the main entrance of the banquet hall, agitated protestors moved much closer to the entrance. Instantly half a dozen Peel police officers set up a perimeter to push back the protestors.
Just about five to 10 minutes afterwards, Premier Wynne surprisingly walked out of the entrance and braved the protest, escorted by a heavy police presence, security and parliamentary assistants. The crowd again swarmed her.
“[T]he changes of the health and physical curriculum are the changes based on science… We are behind other provinces in terms of teenage pregnancy, sexual assault.” – Kathleen Wynne
“The first thing I would like to say is that I know you are here because you care about your children,” she began. “The second thing I want to say is that the changes of the health and physical curriculum are the changes based on science… We are behind other provinces in terms of teenage pregnancy, sexual assault.” Wynne managed to address the crowd while being interrupted continuously by protestors calling her “a liar” and telling her “to resign.”
“I have one more thing to say and I really want you to hear…” Wynne said, remaining calm while battling over dozens of other voices. She was unable to finish as, due to the chaotic and escalated concerns on safety, Peel police officers ended Premier Wynne’s speech and escorted her rapidly back to the venue while protestors and journalists tried to hurry behind. As a result, the police blocked the front entrance, not allowing anyone to enter because they were unable to distinguish protestors from journalists.
After a nearly 20 minute standoff, protestors agreed to leave the premises and journalists were allowed to enter to catch the remaining part of Premier Wynne’s speech at the podium for the reception.
Inside, Wynne continued where she left off earlier: “The final piece of information I want to give to parents outside is that if at the end of the day, after the parents have read the curriculum, they still want to withdraw their children from the class, they have the ability to withdraw their children from the class,” she said, stressing that it is the right parents have in this province always. “What is happening now (the protest), I believe, is the absence of some information. I hope they will take [the] opportunity to get that information.”
“This is not a partisan issue. When people were shouting at me ‘no more Liberals’, that’s not the point… the point is about protecting our children.” – Kathleen Wynne
She went on to say that the political process could manipulate people. “The reality is the protest was led by a Conservative candidate. This is not a partisan issue. When people were shouting at me ‘no more Liberals’, that’s not the point… the point is about protecting our children,” she concluded.
Lou Iacobelli, chair of the Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund and a Hamilton father, argued the legitimacy to withdraw from the class, stating that he is still in court, along with many other parents, after nearly two years of legally battling against Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.
“Parents are taking the school board to court to withdraw their children from curriculum that contradicts their faith,” he said. “They are not respecting parental rights and religious freedom or otherwise they would have reached out and end the court case.”
Shan is a photojournalist and event photographer based in Toronto with more than a decade of experience. From Beijing Olympic Games to The Dalai Lama in Exile, she has covered a wide range of editorial assignments.