Seventeen-year-old Sam Ellwood of Grande Prairie is asking city council to make a stronger effort against harmful misinformation about the 2SLGBTQ+ community. 

She also asked council to make a statement directly against the Sept. 2 1MillionMarch4Children during her presentation at the regular meeting of council on Oct. 16.

Organizers of the march said it was in protest of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Curriculum (SOGI).

“I am here because I fear that my local government does not care for the comfort or the safety of queer children (and) adolescents,” said Ellwood, noting she is disheartened and frightened about the current state of Grande Prairie. 

She said the 1MillionMarch4Children group’s concerns include parents’ rights to know a child’s preferred pronouns at school and its accusation that schools turn children trans by accepting pronouns. The perspective could be putting trans youth in danger, said Ellwood.

She said she has seen how some children do not feel safe in their own homes due to a lack of support for their sexuality or gender. 

“Even if teachers were trying to turn your children gay, it would be better to have a gay child than a dead one or one who won’t speak at school or one who’s afraid to be themselves and experiment with their personality. 

“Whether you think they’re gay or trans or not isn’t the debate; the debate is if you care enough about your child to allow them the freedom to do that.”

She said several city council members have stated they support the 2SLGBTQ+ community yet remain silent when speaking about the SOGI and the 1MillionMarch4Children protest. 

“Queer people exist outside of Pride Month, so your support should as well,” said Ellwood.

Before the Sept. 20 protest, Ellwood says Coun. Dylan Bressey was the only member of city council to post on social media against the protest.

In Bressey’s post, it says that some in the community may feel they are not welcome in the community and don’t feel safe, where he reassures members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community that they are welcome in the city and deserve to feel safe.  

Ellwood said the only other city council member to mention the protest was Mayor Jackie Clayton, whose social media post came hours after the protest ended.

Clayton’s Sept. 20 social media post states: “I’ve been asked by some to share my opinion on the rallies in Grande Prairie today.

“First, I must say, hate speech is not (okay). Hate is hate. 

“As a society, we need to be more understanding, compassionate, kind, and open to views and opinions that may be different than our own.

“I believe children need to be safe and feel safe in school. However, personally as a parent, I like to know what my children are up to while at school. This involves regular conversations with teachers and administrators, but most importantly, with my children. 

“If you choose to protest, do so. Please follow all laws, be respectful, and do not spread hate.

“Share your message and use that as an opportunity for others to hear your opinions and be ‘okay’ that you may not share those opinions. 

“We are a community of great diversity, and with that, we are strong.”

Though council had no questions after her presentation, the mayor expressed her appreciation to Ellwood for coming. 

“Council has been very supportive over many years in various venues, various events, various associations; we, in a regular basis, support associations and organizations that you address tonight in regards to not only in pride month but in other venues.” 

Council voted to accept the delegation for information.

“I just feel like they (council) heard my critique, and it just went straight over their heads,” said Ellwood.

She said the mayor’s statement before the vote did not answer any of her concerns “and didn’t even acknowledge what I requested.”

“I feel we used to be a more supportive place than we are now, and it’s frightening to see that we have a lot more open hatred.”

Ellwood asked council to issue a public statement ahead of a second march Oct. 21; none were made.

On Saturday, a group of protestors in support of 1MillionMarch4Children gathered. A counter-protest was also mounted.

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Oct 26, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta

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