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Local high school teacher draws protest from right-wing groups

Oakville Trafalgar High School | Oakville Trafalgar High School
Oakville Trafalgar High School | Oakville Trafalgar High School

A widely-shared social media video of a tech teacher at Oakville Trafalgar (OT) High School has stirred protest from local, provincial and international right-wing groups.

In the video, the teacher is seen wearing oversized strap-on breasts and a blond wig. It has been reported that this person spent the past year transitioning to a woman.

Almost immediately after hearing about the staff member and their appearance, multiple groups representing the right-wing freedom movement began organizing protests outside the high school, located in Oakville's Ward 3.

Known for piggy-backing on issues in order to push their own agenda, the movement is also well known for overstaying their welcome.

The story even received national attention in the United States after being featured on the popular right-wing Fox television show Tucker Carlson Tonight, which made several false and multiple unverified claims about the situation.

The alt-right movement generally calls for individualistic freedom at all costs. Yet in this situation, it seems that freedom of choice has limits and doesn’t extend to the right of an individual to choose the gender they identify with. 

Outside of the protesters, few people are willing to speak directly and on record about the situation. Oakville News (including the author of this story) contacted OT administration, school trustees, Halton Legal Clinic, a variety of counselling services as well as reaching out to the teacher in question. All declined to comment or did not respond.

 Curtis Ennis, Director of Education for the Halton District School Board (HDSB), DID provide this statement:

"Our school board has received significant attention online and in the news over the past week. The Halton District School Board continues to handle this matter in a way that stays true to our values and commitment to Human Rights, respects the privacy and dignity of our students and staff, and with the safety and well-being of students and staff as our highest priority.'

"As staff, we are guided by numerous legislation and also fundamentally by the privacy and confidentiality of each of our employees. While I understand the desire for information by the public, we will not and cannot publicly discuss any matter that identifies our staff directly or indirectly. I trust the public will understand the parameters that guide us."

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s office forwarded a previously released statement on his behalf: 

"You know, in this province, in our schools, we celebrate our differences. And we also believe that there must be the highest standards of professionalism when in front of our kids."

"And on that basis, I've asked the Ontario College of Teachers to review and to consider strengthening those provisions with respect to professional conduct, which we think would be in the interests of all kids in Ontario."

So, why do so few people want to talk about the focus question: is there a credible reason for the students to be concerned? Or is this spotlight an outlet for bigoted attacks against the teacher in question?

Toronto-based lawyer Caryma Sa’d believes people are apprehensive to go on record about the subject because of concerns about either being lumped in with the Freedom Movement, or being characterized as a bigot for saying the wrong thing.

Sa’d attended two of the protests held outside the high school over the last few weeks and believes the gatherings are what parents and educators should focus their attention on. 

Approximately 100 adults were at the first protest on Sept. 23. Few were parents who mainly kept their distance from the non-parent group. JD Meaney, a Ward 1 candidate running for regional councillor and former OT student, was also present.

A couple of hundred students mingled with protesters or stood off to the side taking it all in. 

On Sept. 28, about 40 adults (including Meaney) were back in front of the school. According to Sa’d, most were from Hamilton and Niagara. At one point, Meaney began chanting for students to walk out of class.

Students were openly communicating with the adults through Instagram groups chats and around 10:30 a.m., a group of students exited the building to join in the protest. 

One student did take the microphone and ask the protestors to leave but the other kids appeared to be enjoying the event. 

"This is cause for the public to raise an eyebrow about what’s happening. The mingling between students and adults who have no connection to them struck me as odd," Sa’d said in an interview with Oakville News.

Freedom personalities included right-wing social media influencers Mr. Freedom (Josh Bigger) and King Nico (Nico Hine) who were openly hugging students while others handed out tee shirts. Members of Peterborough's Hold Fast gang that denounce COVID-19 safety measures were also at the protest.

The overall handling of the situation and resulting protests provided a stage for alt-right voices to take the lead, share their beliefs, and create a distraction from the real issue. 

"I take a moderate position when it comes to the issues of the LGBTQ community. I believe in equality for all in respect of individuals' choices or lifestyles. There were a number of people who are part of the BIPOC community who were in attendance, including my own volunteer coordinator, Amber Kakiishiway, who is a self-representative of the Urban Indigenous Community of Halton," commented JD Meaney. 

The function of the protest was to advocate for the parents who could not be in attendance due to work obligations. 

Also in attendance were DJ Desi Ranks, DJ Vonnie, Cassius Julius and more. It is my belief that the situation at hand is regarding a question of decency and not a trans issue, as it has been portrayed by some media outlets. 

The dress code needs to apply to students and teachers. The focus of school is about teaching and learning. This is a question of professional decency and dress code, never about anti-trans individuals or the LGBTQ community."