François Legault trans protest Montreal

François Legault on Montreal trans protest: There were bad people on both sides

“Insults towards people of sexual diversity are unacceptable. And the labels of ‘fascist’ or ‘transphobic’ whenever we ask questions about gender identity are no more acceptable.”

When anti-LGBTQ2IA+ protesters took to the streets across Canada last Wednesday, both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante released statements that afternoon denouncing the hateful slogans and rhetoric on full display. Quebec Premier François Legault waited until Sunday to issue a written statement on the so-called “1 Million March 4 Children,” calling all offensive language towards LGBTQ2IA+ people “unacceptable.” Equally unacceptable, according to the premier, is calling the protesters and their supporters transphobic, something that occurred both in real-time by way of the many counter-protesters who attended, and in a flood of social media commentary after the fact.

“I saw the demonstrations on the gender issue and I really didn’t like it. Insults towards people of sexual diversity are unacceptable. And the labels of ‘fascist’ or ‘transphobic’ whenever we ask questions about gender identity are no more acceptable.”

Defending the rights of concerned parents who are “just asking questions,” Legault also reiterated the CAQ stance that gender-neutral bathrooms in Quebec schools will never happen.

“It’s normal for parents and citizens to ask questions and worry about their children. In this debate on gender identity and its impacts on all of society, it is important to respect everyone’s point of view. We have made it clear that there is no question of transforming the bathrooms in our schools into mixed (gender) bathrooms. But there are many other issues to study and we will take our responsibilities. We will listen to everyone. We have a duty to be sensitive to people in the LGBTQ+ community, but also to hear the concerns of the general population.”

Legault’s statement on the trans protest in Montreal appeared in the second half of a lengthy post, the first part of which patted Quebec on the back for being leaders on environmental issues — he mentioned that Al Gore called him a “hero in the fight against climate change” during his visit to New York last week for a hydro-electricity deal between Quebec and the state. Perhaps due to having just been stateside, Legault also noted that the divisive, antagonistic, heated tenor of the Montreal protest was not very Québécois and evoked a tone that was imported from “elsewhere” — ie. the U.S., where anti-trans sentiment is clearly beginning to echo across the border (and undoubtedly inspired some of the fear-mongering ideas propagated by protest organizers and protesters alike).

“To see people, from both sides, throwing insults at each other in the streets of Montreal, I found that it was unlike us. I had the impression that we were importing ways of doing things from elsewhere. That’s not how we debate in Quebec! We are a moderate people. We are able to talk to each other.”

Reiterating a statement he made last week, Legault wrote that his role as premier is to fight extremism with moderate viewpoints and compromise, saying that the government would gather a committee to study issues around gender diversity in education and in school settings.

“To enlighten us, we are going to create a group of wise people who will look into these questions. Our goal is not to take away anyone’s rights and even less to stigmatize, but rather to document and analyze the consequences of these issues on all of society, on parents, on children. We are able to do that in Quebec without yelling at each other. We are able to find a compromise where everyone will be listened to, without going to excess. I trust us. For my part, I will continue, with you, to be a shield against the extremes.”

Protecting the rights of minorities and marginalized groups has historically not been met with majority approval, or been the purview of a government like the CAQ. But let’s wait to see who these “wise people” are and how they plan to “enlighten us” before calling out the process as fascist.

Quebec Premier François Legault on last week’s trans protest in Montreal

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