Winnipeg school division forced to halt meeting due to anti-2SLGBTQ+ protesters
Posted June 22, 2023 4:34 pm.
Last Updated June 24, 2023 9:30 am.
A Winnipeg school division was forced to halt their board meeting this week, after a group of people made anti-2SLGBTQ+ comments about a current trustee’s suspension.
Earlier this month, Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) trustee Francine Champagne was suspended for three months without pay, after posting anti-2SLGBTQ+ content on her social media page. Some of Champagne’s supporters entered the board meeting unannounced Tuesday night.
“What happened the other night was not a one-off. What happened the other night at our board meeting was a small tip of the iceberg of a growing extremist movement,” said Ryan Palmquist, LRSD Trustee in Winnipeg.
In response to Champagne’s posts, Palmquist announced on his social media that he is bisexual and has since been subject to harassment.
- READ MORE: School trustee comes out as bisexual after another trustee gets suspended for anti-2SLGBTQ+ comments
“Another person sitting behind me called me a groomer under their breath, and another group of people in the hallway yelled that I was a bigamist, a pedophile, a groomer again, adulterer, asked what my wife thought that I was bisexual.”
Winnipeg police confirmed Thursday that they received multiple calls to the board meeting, but no arrests were made. Sandy Nemeth says it was a concerning situation.
“There were a lot of hurtful comments made and so going forward, we will take every step possible to ensure that it’s not going to repeat itself, I am making that commitment. We will ensure an environment that is much more welcoming and respectful which is line with who we are in Louis Riel,” said Sandy Nemeth, chair of Louis Riel School Division Board of Trustees.
In May, a ban on 2SLGBTQ+ books in the Brandon School Division was voted down, after members in that community called for the removal, claiming these books were “harmful” for children.
“We see heightened levels of anxiety and depression associated with that fear and with that stigma,” said Sarah Kennell, national director of public policy with the Canadian Mental Health Association.
The Canadian Mental Health Association says it worries about the normalization of anti-2SLGBTQ+ hate and the impact it’s having on mental health. Kennell says supports are urgently needed in schools and workplaces.
“Ensuring they have access to counselling and psychotherapy, peer support groups is really important and ensuring those are freely available,” said Kennell.
Ashley Smith from the Rainbow Resource Centre in Winnipeg says it’s exhausting for people in the 2SLGBTQ+ community to continue to fight for basic human rights.
“These are dangerous times for people in the 2SLGBTQ+ community,” said Smith. “We need to realize that anti-queer rhetoric and hate rhetoric is actually hate speech and is illegal. People in our community have every right to defend themselves by calling the police and taking this seriously.”
Palmquist says the people who showed up to the board meeting unannounced pose a threat to not only the board members, but students and families in the division.
“We need to be united to doing everything we can to create safe spaces for our youth in our schools and their families.”