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UCP stands behind MLA who spoke at LGBTQ2S+ policy protest in Red Deer

While Alberta's United Conservative Party has "not made any decisions" regarding LGBTQ2S+ policies in schools, a spokesperson said the UCP has no issue with an MLA joining protesters.

"Our MLAs may speak to these issues on behalf of their constituents. Our caucus supports peaceful protest and open, grassroots debate on the issues affecting Albertans," Tim Gerwing told CTV News Edmonton.

The statement comes after hundreds gathered in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer Wednesday for the '1MillionMarch4Children' protesting sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum in Canadian schools.

Among those was the UCP MLA for Red Deer-South, Jason Stephan, who shared a stage in that city with a school trustee who recently compared the LGBTQ2S+ community to Nazi Germany.

"We are here today because we do not like school boards or governments inserting themselves between our children and keeping secrets from us," Stephan told the crowd in a video captured by rdnewsNOW.

"Albertans want to be informed as to what schools are teaching."

Stephan didn't specify what he believes is being kept from Alberta parents, but he did speak in favour of a controversial New Brunswick policy which requires parental consent before teachers can use preferred names or pronouns of students under 16.

"While this event seeks to affirm the sacred relationship of parent and child, some will seek to frame this gathering in a hateful way. Thank you for coming out today," Stephan said in Red Deer.

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan claps as Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Trustee Monique LaGrange gives a speech at the '1MillionMarch4Children' protest in Red Deer on September 20, 2023. (Credit: rdnewsNOW)

While the local MLA cheered her on, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Trustee Monique LaGrange took to the microphone.

Earlier this month, the Alberta Teachers Association asked LaGrange to resign over a Facebook post its president labelled "vile and repugnant."

Her post showed a picture of children waving the Nazi flag above a picture of children waving Pride flags, with the caption "brainwashing is brainwashing."

"We need to teach our children and keep them from agendas that are out there," LaGrange said shortly after a member of the crowd called her a "hero."

The '1MillionMarch4Children' has been condemned as "hate" by both Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley and Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.

“The protests being held today are designed to divide us, to spread misinformation and to stoke fear for political gain. They target the most vulnerable among us, our kids," Notley said.

Sohi posted Tuesday that the protests are "guised as protecting our children, [but] will actually cause tremendous harm to our 2SLGBTQIA+ youth, their families, and allies."

Protesters with the 1MillionMarch4Children gathered at the Alberta Teachers' Association Wednesday to call for the removal of "Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools." (Miriam Valdes-Carletti/CTV News Edmonton)

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said she was "aware" of the protests and encouraged everyone to stay peaceful but did not clearly take a side.

"Smith went as far as she could, I think, because of internal politics and didn't show a whole lot of courage," Mount Royal Political Scientist Duane Bratt told CTV News Edmonton.

He said the Red Deer gathering was sponsored by Take Back Alberta, a group heavily involved in the UCP, making things even more awkward for Smith.

"The challenge for her is can she continue that tightrope? I think it's going to be very difficult for her…I think at her heart she is a libertarian. She is a live-by-live person, but she also recognizes the important faction that social conservatives make up in the United Conservative Party," Bratt said.

As for Stephan's appearance, Bratt said he wasn't surprised by it.

The Red Deer MLA has previously made headlines for vacationing in Arizona despite a COVID-19 advisory, calling on former premier Jason Kenney to resign and missing his swearing-in ceremony in favour of a family trip to Africa.

"Jason Stephan has been one of the more controversial UCP MLAs for years. This is not out of character for him," Bratt said.

"I'm very curious to see how the government responds to this."

CTV News Edmonton reached out to the premier's office, Stephan and LaGrange for comment but did not receive responses.

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