Talking to the organizers of the CHS Walkout
On Friday September 21st, students in over 100 schools in Ontario walked out of class to protest the provincial government’s decision to go back to the 1998 sex education curriculum and cancel $100 million in school repair funds. Seven schools in Ottawa, including Canterbury High School, participated in the walkout: "We The Students Do Not Consent." Over 200 students from CHS participated in a protest reported on by CTV, the Ottawa Voice newspaper student journalists from Carleton University, and The Wallflower, which will now tell you about the people who made this happen. It all started with one 15-year-old student, Eliane D’arcy-Simmonds.
Eliane wanted a change and needed to fight this, but she had no idea where to begin or how she would pull this off. Feeling stressed and doubtful, her first move was to make a social media account to promote the walkout, an initiative started by a Toronto-area high school student. One by one, five other students the same age contacted her and asked if they could help; Eliane then felt supported and knew she could do this. The social media account received over 300 followers the first day it went up, it now has 700 and counting.
Eliane D’arcy-Simmonds, Gwen Hanson, Sage Kirchmann, Nicole Way, Skye Macleod, and Eve Donaldson began meeting up together on a daily basis to organize and strategize the Canterbury walkout. They planned for the walkout to take place on the front lawn of the school from 1pm until 3pm. There would be chanting, speeches, face paint, and poster making. They used social media to educate the students on safe protesting and encourage everyone to wear purple.
"The colour purple shows we are unified in our opinions, it is not so much to focus on the colour and more to focus on a community standing as one," said Sage.
The 6 students quickly became unified. They now have a groupchat with 30 other schools participating in the walkout, they are there to offer support and give advice to one another.
“It is important to educate everyone to make sure people are being safe and respectful of others even if not apart of the LGBTQ community; we need to be informed as a society, especially about consent. I think it is so incredibly sad that we have progressed so much and have come so far, and now we have to go so many steps back,” says Gwen and Eliane.
The importance of making sure children are educated is something I am willing to fight for."
Not many people are willing to put themselves out there for a cause, so I asked Sage: What made you want to do this?
"As a queer non binary youth, to find out who I was I had to learn who I could be, and the 1998 curriculum that is being pushed forward is not going to let children explore who they could be and from experience that is a very painful thing," Sage said. "I have experienced being miseducated and that was incredibly painful for my family and I. The importance of making sure children are educated is something I am willing to fight for."
The exclusion of the indigenous issues is just not right, added Nicole Way. "You cannot take out the education of history we do not want it to repeat itself.”
It's been more than a week since the walkout, which begs the question: Will this protest have a lasting impact? No one can know for sure, but these six students will not give up.
“Speaking to Doug Ford directly through this, we are not going to stop, you’re looking at a glimpse and the more we push, the more people will know, we are a country that is united, a province that knows what we want, and the students are the future.”
These 6 determined students will not back down. Eliane D’arcy- Simmonds, Gwen Hanson, Sage Kirchmann, Nicole Way, Skye Macleod, and Eve Donaldson will not stop until Doug Ford notices and addresses the issue. This is just the beginning.