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Published October 5, 2023

Trudeau says he never suggested those worried about 'parental rights' are hateful

By Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday he never suggested that individuals concerned about their rights as parents were hateful when he issued a statement in response to the thousands who attended recent protests about "gender ideology" in schools. 

Speaking to reporters at a housing announcement in Vaughan, Ont., Trudeau said the post he issued Sept. 20 on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, was about taking a stand for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Trudeau said in the post that "transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia have no place in this country," adding that the country condemns "this hate and its manifestations." 

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accused him days later of "demonizing concerned parents."

And the Muslim Association of Canada called on Trudeau to retract and apologize for what it called the "deeply inflammatory" comment, saying Muslim parents who participated in the protests showed up "to be heard, not to sow division."

"I never suggested that someone who's concerned about parental rights is somehow filled with hate or intolerance," Trudeau said Thursday. 

The term "parental rights," which broadly refers to the desire for parents to be involved in the decisions made by their children and by schools, has gained increased popularity in Canada over the past year among people with wide-ranging concerns about efforts undertaken to make classrooms more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students. 

Such efforts include raising Pride flags and holding discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as policies that allow transgender and non-binary students to be called by their preferred name and pronoun. 

The latter has become the subject of new provincial policies, first in New Brunswick and now in Saskatchewan, that require schools to seek parental permission when gender-diverse students younger than 16 ask to be called by a different name or pronoun.

It's a policy that teachers' unions and provincial child advocates have said puts vulnerable students at risk.

Trudeau said when asked if he would retract his social-media comment that he will continue to stand up for the rights of everyone, whether they be Muslim Canadians or members of the LGBTQ+ community.

He said defending one another's rights is "core" to Canada. 

"We will always stand against hatred and intolerance wherever and from whoever it comes, but anyone who's trying to politicize or spin this as an attack on one particular group is trying to divide communities against each other." 

Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2023. 

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