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Far-Right Activists are Planning an Anti-Sex-Ed Convoy Targeting Alberta Teachers’ Association Building

Alberta Teachers’ Association says it is ‘taking steps’ to protect staff

Alberta school teachers are being targeted by a planned convoy “parade” next week in the latest wave of far-right protests targeting schools and educators.

Leading the planned “one million march for children” event is Benita Pedersen, a familiar face among Alberta’s far-right and a key organizer for Take Back Alberta during this year’s provincial election.

“I’m one of the main coordinators,” Pedersen confirmed to PressProgress. “I am in partnership with individuals from the groups ‘Alberta 4 Liberty’ and ‘YEG United’.”

Pedersen says her “one million march for children” is protesting “sexual education,” claiming parents are unable to “opt-out” because she believes lessons about sex and gender are being taught in every single school subject.

“Nowadays, there is sex education within various subjects, there is gender ideology information being shared within various subjects,” Pedersen said. “It’s embedded in math class, language arts, science, phys ed, social studies — parents aren’t even aware.”

In a series of videos shared in private Facebook groups, Pedersen is seen standing among bushes across the street from the Alberta Teachers’ Association head office in Edmonton. The videos are filmed at night time and Pedersen is illuminating her face with a flashlight.

“I’m in a very special place,” Pedersen tells viewers in one video. “I am standing in front of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. Why am I standing here? Because this is where the event is going to take place on Wednesday, September 20.”

“Across the street from us is an organization known as the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association is one of the largest supporters of SOGI 123,” Pedersen says. “This is the location of the one million march for Children in Edmonton.”

The SOGI 123, or “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”, is a set of educational tools designed to make schools safer and more inclusive for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities. It has been the target of far-right christian nationalist groups in Canada.

In another video, Pedersen notes “you’re probably wondering why did we chose this location, why are we at the intersection of 142 street and 11 avenue,” acknowledging that “there are many people suggesting such an event should be at the Alberta Legislature grounds.”

Pedersen explains that her group is planning to set-up a “very, very powerful sound system” in a “green space” located across the street from ATA’s building: “I am quite confident that they are going to hear our voices and see our signage and know why we’re here.”

“There has been inappropriateness going on in schools,” Pedersen explains. “Children are being inappropriately exposed to gender ideology and sexual knowledge.”

In another video, Pedersen brings the viewer along for a virtual tour of ATA’s private property.

“I just want to demonstrate to you how dedicated they are to supporting SOGI 123, aso known as Pride programming,” Pedersen says as she zooms in on the ATA’s rainbow crosswalk. “When you see a rainbow crosswalk at any facility or any community, I encourage you to think deeply about the implications.”

ATA President Jason Schilling says he is “troubled” by the growing trend of groups like Pedersen’s explicitly targeting schools and educational facilities.

“Protestors are not welcome on ATA property and we are taking steps to ensure the safety and security of all staff, visitors and the building on this day,” Schilling told PressProgress.

“Attacks on sexual and gender diverse students and school staff are increasing to exceptional and troubling levels,” Schilling added. “The Association continues to promote and protect safe and welcoming learning environments for all students through ongoing advocacy initiatives.”

On Friday, Pedersen posted a map along with detailed plans for a planned “mini-convoy” that will stage a “parade” through the surrounding residential neighbourhood and that will “wiggle” its way past local high school.

Pedersen’s convoy plans include “blockers” whose job is to “park your vehicle and block traffic at certain intersections at certain times, possibly including the intersection at 107 avenue and 142 street” – an intersection with a large roundabout. Pedersen urges convoy members to bring a “safety vest and use guiding batons” to direct traffic.

The plans also suggest the convoy parade be led by a “pilot truck” whose role is “leading the parade with flashing lights and big signage” who will “give the thumbs up sign lots of times.” At the rear, a “caboose pilot truck” will flash its lights and display a “big sign on the back that reads: ‘Mature content is not for kids, 1MillionMarch4Children, Drive Slow’.”

Benita Pedersen (Facebook)

Pedersen says she has been communicating with Edmonton Police about her “One Million March for Children” to limit traffic impacts.

“Edmonton police service is well aware of our plans and they’re well aware of the timing of our plans,” Pedersen told PressProgress. “By the sounds of it, Edmonton Police Service is going to redirect emergency traffic during the time of our march.”

“We have no intention of completely blocking traffic, we’re just going to take up one lane when we march.”

Pedersen said she also recently called and “assured” ATA representatives that no members of her “one million march for children” will be on the ATA’s property.

“We’re not going to be on publicly owned property that’s owned by the ATA.”

Earlier this summer Pedersen turned her hometown of Westlock, Alberta into a culture war battleground when she led a campaign against the local rainbow crosswalk. It included demonstrations in front of town council, petitioning, and flyers on cars.

Prior to that, Pedersen was a key organizer for Take Back Alberta, an important ally of Premier Danielle Smith. During the provincial election, Pedersen led special training sessions for election “scrutineers” that advised participants to infiltrate campaigns, examine voting machines for tampering and act as “security” on voting day.

Pederson told PressProgress that she is no longer serving as a “leader” with Take Back Alberta but adds: “I still support Take Back Alberta.”

Since the Provincial election the organization has shown signs of pivoting to anti-LGBTQ2S+ activity, with founder David Parker promoting such protests at City Hall in Calgary.

The convoy parade next week part of a wave of so-called “Million Man Marches” protesting sex education set to happen across Canada next week.

 

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Stephen Magusiak
Reporter
Stephen Magusiak is PressProgress’ Alberta reporter. His reporting has a focus on public accountability, public services and privatization, and the right-wing war on environmentalists.

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