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WATCH: Westlock students and parents hold walkout to protest premier Smith’s parental rights policy

About 30 participants rallied in front of the Heritage Building Feb. 7
R.F. Staples students George Shumway (he/they), left and Jess Lucas (they/them), right were two of about 30 students and parents who took part in a school walkout Wednesday morning, Feb. 7 in Westlock. Several schools across the province held similar events to protest premier Danielle Smith’s parental rights policy, announced last week. Kristine Jean/WN

WESTLOCK — About 30 R.F. Staples students and parents were loud, proud and not afraid to speak their mind as they protested Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s new parental rights policy, which was announced last week, during a walkout Feb. 7 outside the Heritage Building in Westlock.

The rally began at 10 a.m. and lasted about an hour, as students and parents walked up and down the sidewalk holding signs, waving to residents and showing support for transgender kids and the 2SLGBTQI+ community, while vehicles honked horns as they drove by in a show of support.

“We want (Danielle Smith) to hear that we’re unhappy with these changes. We think it’s going to put people in danger and we don’t want that at all,” said walkout organizer Shaylin Lussier. “We want a safe environment for our students at schools all across Alberta.”   

The school walkout in Westlock was not the only one to take place Wednesday. “I know a lot of schools in Edmonton and across Alberta are doing the exact same, which is really awesome,” said Lussier. “I felt like it was very important to bring (the protest) to Westlock.”

Several parents were also out to show their support and speak out against the parental rights policy. One of them was Jasmine Boutin.

“I’m here (at the walkout) for my nephew, for my daughters, myself and the kids that go to R.F. Staples,” said Boutin, sharing her thoughts on the protest. “I think more people need to stand up. What Danielle Smith is doing is wrong.”

Boutin noted the important role parents can have and should have in kids' lives.

“We all deserve love and support. We as parents need to do more communication with our kids,” she said. “In today’s society I believe that communication and support of children is lacking.”    

Feedback and response to the walkout was positive, noted Lussier, adding that people who were not able to attend also shared supportive comments.

She said “it’s absolutely necessary” that Smith sit down and talk with the transgender and 2SLGBTQI+ community so she can “understand the minds of trans children.”

“It’s very, very important that before you make these decisions, you actually talk to the people they’re going to be affecting so greatly,” explained Lussier, adding that she is grateful for the support they’ve received. “To all of the Trans kids in general, who are scared to come out or who don’t want to go to the walkout because they’re scared, (know) you’re loved.”   

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Kristine Jean

About the Author: Kristine Jean

Kristine Jean joined the Westlock News as a reporter in February 2022. She has worked as a multimedia journalist for several publications in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and enjoys covering community news, breaking news, sports and arts.
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