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BC United leader under fire for saying protesters have 'legitimate concerns' ahead of anti-LGBTQ2S+ demonstrations


The leader of B.C.'s official Opposition faced calls to condemn rallies against LGBTQ2S+ education happening across Canada Wednesday after suggesting the protesters have "legitimate concerns."

In advance of Wednesday's demonstrations, statements condemning them were issued by everyone from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to city mayors to grassroots parents' organizations.

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon's first comments on the planned protests came Tuesday when he was asked about his party's response at an unrelated news conference.

"I think when it comes to a point where parents are feeling a need to protest in the streets, that's telling you something. It's telling you that they feel excluded and ignored in what's going on in their schools," he answered.

"I think it's important that we don't just dismiss that outright, that we recognize that there are legitimate concerns."

The marches advocate for "the elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools," according to organizers of the so-called "1MillionMarch4Children," who describe themselves as marching "to protect our children from indoctrination and sexualization."

In response to Falcon's comments, B.C.'s parliamentary secretary for gender equity issued a public demand for the Opposition leader to denounce the planned events and affirm his support for the province's SOGI123 framework, a set of guidelines and best practices for creating inclusive classrooms. That framework was introduced when Falcon's party was in power in 2016.

"By validating these hateful protests, Kevin Falcon is emboldening them and helping to spread homophobia and transphobia. If he supports SOGI, he needs to stand up with us and call these protests what they are: harmful and dangerous to queer young people," MLA Kelli Paddon wrote in her statement.

Falcon's first officially released statement came after protests and counter-protests were well underway across the country, and around the same time as the one from Paddon – but it stopped short of meeting her demands and did not directly address either the protests or SOGI123.

"I am deeply concerned for members of the LGBTQ community who feel targeted and attacked today. Let me be absolutely clear: hatred and discrimination have no place in our province," it said.

"In British Columbia, everyone should always feel safe, respected and welcome, and it is unacceptable to see members of any community feel targeted and attacked by anyone in our province."

As Wednesday progressed, most protests were met with significantly larger counter-demonstrations, and confrontations between groups grew heated.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ian Holliday Top Stories

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