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Protest over gendered washroom use at Renfrew high school


A protest took place outside St. Joseph's Catholic High School in Renfrew, Ont. on Friday over the use of the gendered bathrooms in the school.

Josh Alexander, a Grade 11 student at St. Joseph's, says he organized the protest, which took place just off school property at the corner of Barnet Boulevard and First Street.

"A couple of female students complained to me about males using the female washrooms in St. Joseph's Catholic High School," Alexander told CTV News Ottawa.

"As a young man I feel an obligation to take action against something like that. I know there's a lot of misinformation posted online that this is an anti-trans rally, that's not the case. We just simply want male students removed from the female washrooms."

Emma Smith is a transgender student in Grade 11 at the Renfrew school.

"Biologically I'm male but I transitioned to female, so I would use the female washroom. I don't feel safe going in there because I think I'm going to get attacked," Smith said.

The 16-year-old told CTV News she has been bullied at school, including receiving death threats, and has faced backlash over her bathroom usage.

"There are gender-neutral washrooms which I have to use, but when they are in use I just have to wait, which sucks," said Smith. "People should be able to use which washroom they want to use without fear of being hurt."

In a statement posted online Tuesday, the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board said, "It is important to note that St. Joseph’s High School has had no part in the planning of this demonstration. [...] We want to make it clear that the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board strongly condemns transphobia and all forms of hate."

The protest, which also included a contingent of anti-vaccine mandate protesters was met with a counter-protest, formed by various pride groups from across the Ottawa Valley.

"We're creating a wall of positivity and love to protect any transgender youth and queer youth that attend St. Joseph's High School from a group that seems to be targeting them," said Chris Kyte, founder of Renfrew Pride.

Among the counter-protesters was Smith's father.

"It makes me feel angry, makes me feel protective, makes me want to go to class with my kid," said Jason Smith when seeing the protesters set up outside of his daughter's high school.

"But I can't and this is the best that I can do to show my support."

Ontario Provincial Police officer also attended the event, but did not engage with any protesters or counter-protesters.

"We didn't know what to expect today to be honest with you," said Brianna Roberge with the OPP Renfrew detachment.

"We knew that we were going to have two groups here for their own representation reasons, but we have just come to ensure that everybody is safe." Top Stories

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