Conservative MPs were advised not to engage with the media or communicate online regarding the conflicting protests on Parliament Hill that centered around LGBTQ+ issues in schools.
The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the message, sent to Pierre Poilievre’s caucus members, which instructed them not to publicly address the matter and provided suggested talking points for discussions with their constituents.
It is customary for the Opposition leader’s office to provide talking points on significant issues, including topics consistently covered by Conservative MPs in interviews such as bail reform and inflation.
Poilievre’s office has not yet provided a response to the request for comment, including addressing the explicit instruction for MPs not to engage with the media regarding this specific issue.
The memo about the protests occurring across Canada acknowledges that the protesters have “legitimate points to make” regarding what it refers to as “parental rights.”
Competing protests took place in multiple cities across the country, where individuals shouted and chanted about how schools address sexuality, gender identity, and the treatment of transgender youth by teachers.
This debate, brought to Canadian streets by protesters and counter-protesters on Wednesday, has gained momentum due to new policies implemented in two provinces.
New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have both introduced education policies stipulating that schools must obtain parental consent if a student under 16 wishes to be referred to by a different name or pronoun.
Both policies are now the subject of legal challenges.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has expressed willingness to use the notwithstanding clause to maintain the policy despite concerns from critics, LGBTQ+ advocates, and the province’s child advocate, who argue that it discriminates against the rights of transgender and non-binary students.
Poilievre has only commented on the issue when approached by media.
After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized the New Brunswick policy, Poilievre told reporters in the province that Trudeau should refrain from meddling in provincial affairs and “allow parents to raise their children.”
In the message sent on Wednesday, Poilievre’s office referenced that statement as something MPs can repeat “to discuss parental rights with constituents.”
It also highlighted a statement made by Poilievre to an ethnic media broadcaster ahead of Wednesday’s demonstrations, where he expressed his belief that “parents should have the final say in the values and lessons taught to children.”
The accompanying introduction to the suggested talking points acknowledged that protesters have the right to assemble and express their opinions, emphasizing that all MPs were due to attend party caucus meetings on Wednesday.
The note began with bolded text: “This messaging is for reactive use only. Please do not talk to media or post on social media about this issue.”
The Canadian Press did not observe any caucus members participating in the demonstrations in front of Parliament Hill.
In response to the protests, Trudeau tweeted on Wednesday that “transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia have no place in this country,” reaffirming his support for the LGBTQ+ community.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was observed attending a counter-protest in Ottawa.
Since assuming leadership, Poilievre has aimed to position the party with a strong focus on affordability and housing prices.
Summer polls consistently showed the Tories leading the governing Liberals, boosting supporters’ confidence that the Conservatives are on track to regain power after eight years in opposition.
However, party delegates at the recent policy convention in Quebec City made it clear that they wanted the party to articulate its stance on cultural issues in addition to economic ones.
Party members voted in favor of introducing a new provision into the policy handbook, stating that women are entitled to “single-sex spaces” and that a future Conservative government should prohibit medical and surgical interventions for minors experiencing gender dysphoria.
Neither Poilievre nor his office has commented on their intentions regarding these new policies, which are not binding.
Like previous Conservative leaders, Poilievre stated before the policy convention that he reserves the right to exclude policy changes adopted by the party’s grassroots from his official position.