A mother and her two teenage sons may face fines after attending a counter-protest against an anti-LGBTQ2S+ group.
The incident occurred on Feb. 12, when a religious group gathered in front of the Canyon Meadows pool to protest the city’s inclusive changing-room policy, which allows trans people to use the changing room consistent with their gender identity. In response, a group of LGBTQ2S+ people and allies staged a counter-protest to stand up for trans rights. However, when leaving the protest, a participant, Lou, along with her sons James and Joseph (all names were changed to protect privacy), were stopped by bylaw officers and ticketed for “street harassment” and “excessive noise,” according to Global News.
According to Lou, the gathering became heated after counter-protestors confronted the religious protestors. She said that her teenage sons were harassed by the religious protestors, including being called “devil ‘f’ slurs to their faces.” Police and bylaw officers claimed that they received complaints from neighbours about the noise level.
After discussing the fines with law enforcement, they agreed not to charge James and Joseph until further investigation.
“The fines hold no meaning to me, they are fines for something we don’t believe we did anything wrong,” James told Global News.
When asked about the fines, Ryan Pleckaitis of the City of Calgary community standards division told Global News that officers have to apply bylaws “fairly and impartially.” He claimed that harassing someone based on their identity is equivalent to harassing someone based on their religious beliefs. Instead of considering the message of the protestors, he argued, they have to look at what the bylaws say.
“We are reviewing information collected and we will be meeting with our law department to review evidence and will be making a decision whether to move forward with tickets,” Pleckaitis said to Global News.
Calgary has seen a number of similar clashes between right-wing protestors and LGBTQ2S+ advocates and allies as of late, with drag shows in particular being a target of right-wing ire. Last month, protestors disrupted an all-ages drag brunch, claiming that the event was inappropriate for children. Just as with the protest at Canyon Meadows pool, a large group of counter-protestors arrived to confront them and defend “safe queer spaces” such as drag events. Although there was a heavy police presence on-site, the Calgary police service said that the demonstration was relatively peaceful.
Similar protests against drag events have become increasingly commonplace in Canada. In the first two months of 2023, there have already been protests in Ottawa, Coquitlam, Kitsilano and Peterborough, to name a few.
Inclusive bathroom and changing-room policies have also been subject to right-wing protests. A demonstration similar to the one in Calgary recently occurred outside a pool in Saskatoon, led by Mark Friesen of the “Buffalo Party,” a libertarian pro.vincial party in Saskatchewan. A grade 11 student in Renfrew was arrested after protesting a policy allowing trans students to use the washroom of their choice. And across the border in San Diego, California, a protest at a YMCA over a trans woman showering in the women’s locker room was dispersed by riot police.
While advocates say the protests are indicative of a massive rise in anti-trans hate, queer and trans people and their allies show no signs of backing down. In the case of many of these incidents, the counter-protestors have outnumbered the original group.
Lou told Global News that the potential fines won’t stop her from continuing to stand up for the LGBTQ2S+ community. “It’s about basic human rights and it doesn’t make me a good ally if I get one threat and I stop showing up—I am going to keep going.”