This article was originally published on VICE Canada.
After the ratings bonanza of M-103, which resulted in far-right media created protests receiving national coverage, the usual suspects are back trying to rile up their base around another law.
This time, it's Bill 89, by Ontario's Liberal government, that has sparked their ire (you can read the full bill here but I warn you, it's a long read.)
The bill is a sweeping overhaul of the province's child aid and youth justice systems. It has just recently passed its second reading in the legislation without anyone voting nay (this includes the Tories,) and, this week, will be going through it's final committee review. It has been dubbed by the Liberals as "historic" and criticized by youth advocates as being too weak.
Alongside many other changes, the bill has updated the criteria for analyzing the wellbeing of a child to match the human rights code. These include "a child's or young person's race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, family diversity, disability, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression."
It's "gender identity and gender expression" that the far-right is focusing on, obvi.
The main issue the crew has seems to be that the protection of gender expression and identity is extended to the home in the same sense that sexual orientation is. In essence, these groups are worried about the government, under Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, swooping into religious homes and stealing kids who have been "brainwashed" into believing they have a new gender.
The theory made it's way through the religious media like ARPA (who you might remember from such hits as the Ontario sex-ed clusterfuck) before being picked up by the Canadian champions of far-right conspiracy theories, Rebel Media. The folks at the Rebel started a petition, bought a URL, and released a breathless video in regards to it. The video and petition have since popped up in 4chan and the pizzagate forum on VOAT.
"Bill 89 is an unprecedented government intrusion into Ontario homes," Faith Goldy, a Rebel correspondent, states in the video. "It is an unprecedented government intrusion into how families wish to raise their children. It pushes gender identity onto Ontario children. It makes unscientific gender theory the law of our homes."
She goes on to call it a "sick social experiment" at the end of the video. There are other things that the articles, bloggers, vloggers, and forums are churning outrage over, but gender-identity in the home is the hook.
In the end, it is a transparent excuse to use transphobia to rally up rage induced page clicks and donations from the angry—this is the business model for many of these outlets. Now, in terms of the outrage that's hoping to be generated here, Bill 89 will probably not be the hit that M103 was—the bill is province specific and Islamophobia is the hot button issue of our time.
The bill is so massive that Ontario Children and Youth Services Minister Michael Coteau, in conversation with the Toronto Star, said it was "one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation that this government has ever put forward." Now, while the bill clearly isn't an Orwellian plot to steal kids from the religious that some are making it out to be, the sheer size of it means that Bill 89 won't be free from criticism, and deserves to examined closely.
In an interview with the Toronto Star, Kiaras Gharabaghi, director of Ryerson University's School of Child and Youth Care, said the bill is full of "weasel words."
"It is a bill that completely lacks courage," Gharabaghi said. "In every section it builds in limitations that suggest this is what we are hoping for, but it's OK if it doesn't happen. Everything is 'should be,' 'may be,' 'could be,' 'ought to be,' 'where appropriate,' 'if necessary.' "
That's the real problem with making attempts to work up the crowd into a frothy frenzy of anger over easily exploited prejudices—in the midst of all the shouting we miss the actual things that should be remedied.
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.