In the biggest demonstration since the Freedom Convoy, large numbers of Canadian families and supporters took to the streets across the country on 20 September to assert the rights of parents as primary educators and protectors of their children with the slogan, ‘Leave our kids alone!’
The ‘1 Million March 4 Children’ was spearheaded by Muslim Canadians in response to increasingly aggressive policy and curriculum changes in publicly funded schools, pushing radical gender ideology and putting content before children that protesting parents say is indecent or age-inappropriate. Turnout was impressive, with many thousands of participants in over 100 cities and up to 10,000 marchers reported at the largest gathering in Ottawa.
Yes, it was the biggest Canadian demonstration since the freedom truckers – and yet there was barely a ripple in mainstream reporting. Left-wing gatekeepers – the Trudeau government, the unions, and radical progressive activists – declined to engage with the rallies in good faith. (In fairness, it must be hard to keep up an unsullied image as the white knights of democracy if the peasants get to keep rising up against you on live TV.)
The state-subsidised Canadian media, knowing which side its bread is buttered, got to work downplaying the event, focusing on the relatively small counter-protests. These counter protests were partly organised by senior union leadership in Ontario and radical activists, as a secret Zoom meeting leaked ahead of the event showed.
At the meeting, protesting parents were described as right-wing extremists, hate-filled, and racist. (Is it right-wing extremism to want a say in what your child learns in school?) Yet the March’s organisers had been clear that the protest was specifically focused on a single issue, that of parental rights in education, not on other aspects of radical social change, or, on anything remotely connected with race.
Nonetheless, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau felt the need to ‘strongly condemn this hate and its manifestations.’ Why should he mischaracterise the perfectly ordinary issue of parental rights as hateful? Canadian academic Jordan Peterson later rebuked Trudeau directly on Twitter, telling him, ‘Once again, you are on the wrong side of history…’
Along the same lines, the mayor of Ottawa declared that he supported the right to protest, but not the targeting of children ‘for being who they are’ – implying that this was the goal of the March 4 Children. He did not explain why he thinks parents wanting to care for their own offspring is equivalent to ‘targeting’ children.
Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP, joined a counter-protest in Ottawa and made cryptic remarks to reporters about ‘a lot of folks that don’t feel safe because of the rise in hate and division that’s targeting vulnerable people.’
As for Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives, the party originally instructed MPs not to make any public comment about the mass protest, though in an internal memo the party allegedly admitted that protestors had ‘legitimate points’ to make about parental rights. On Thursday afternoon, Poilievre criticised Trudeau for demonising concerned parents and expressed support for parental authority over what is taught to children.
The Conservatives’ original reticence to support the protests is probably because they fear that if they are perceived to be supporting a grassroots protest criticising gender ideology in schools, they will be smeared as extremist, divisive, racist and hateful. But who are they trying to please? The state-subsidised media? That’s a lost cause, particularly after Poilievre’s promise to defund the CBC.
Much more courageous was Premier Blaine Higgs of New Brunswick, who came out to welcome pro-family protestors in front of the provincial legislature. Premier Higgs recently took a great deal of heat from all sides for obliging schools to obtain parental consent to use new names or pronouns for children under 16 – hardly an extreme policy from any perspective. His own – conservative! –party attempted to pressure him out of it, but he stayed firm, expressing his willingness to trigger an election over the motion, and ultimately carried the day.
The federal Conservatives could learn from Roger Scruton’s commentary on UK conservatives over ten years ago: ‘For the ordinary voter the family is a place in which children are produced, socialised and protected. That is what the party should be saying, but does not say, since it is prepared to sacrifice the loyalty of its core constituents to the demands of a lobby that is unlikely to vote for it.’
There is only one way that progressive activists will endorse the Conservatives, and that’s if they believe Conservatives will serve to further the progressive agenda better than other parties. They’ll be willing to compromise on some issues to get what they want on others – and right now, that’s unfettered access to children’s minds through public education.
Will the 1 Million March 4 Children protestors vote Conservative? Probably, if they have any reason to believe that Conservatives will protect what they cherish most – their children. If not, maybe not.
And aside from pleasing the voters, Conservatives might like to consider another Scrutonism: The traditional family has not just an instrumental value, but an intrinsic value. Sure, traditional families are good for the economy, good for the wellbeing of children, good for the stability of society, good for getting leaders with conservative values into power.
But traditional families are also good, full stop. So is standing up for them – whatever the cost.