Difficult, discouraging and disheartening.
Those were the words shared by SPECTRUM Waterloo executive director Scott Williams when asked about the 1 Million March 4 Children protests last month.
"I thought it was disturbing so many young kids were being used as props," Williams said.
"It was difficult to take in the volume of hate."
Now, a second protest is being planned for Oct. 21 to speak out against what many protesters say is the indoctrination and push of sexual ideology on students within the school system.
They're notions that Williams says are "misleading at best" and spurred by the lack of education around the curriculum being taught.
"The lack of understanding is what precipitates this," he said.
"Human development and the sexual component is designed to help students learn about healthy physical development. Sexual orientation isn't introduced until Grade 5 and gender identity until Grade 8. Letting people know queer people exist isn't indoctrination."
Wasai Rahimi, a protest supporter and one of the key figures behind local rallies, has a different take on what's happening.
The president of the Afghan Association of Waterloo Region says his concerns have nothing to do with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community but he does have a problem with what he perceives is being pushed in schools.
"We're not sending children to school to educate on sexual ideology, we send them to study math, reading and other subjects," Rahimi said.
"They pretended at the beginning that they want to create an inclusive community but now they're reaching the point where parents have no say in their children's decisions."
Rahimi says he believes people within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community should be allowed to freely live the life they choose.
"We have no problem with LGBTQ community, they're part of our community," he said.
"We're not against it. Canada is a free country and everyone has the right to live how they like. We have no problem with them. We’re against the indoctrination of kids in school and for parental rights."
But therein lies the problem, Williams says.
The idea that members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ have the right to "live how they like" isn't accurate because it's not a choice.
"Gender and sexual identity are inherent," Williams said.
"That's why they're protected by human rights."
The Waterloo Region District School Board spoke out in a statement prior to the first protests on Sept. 20 to try and clarify misconceptions.
"As a secular, public education system, we do not teach children what to believe," the statement on the board's website reads.
"However, we do teach that there are many ways that people define and express their identities. All are worthy of respect. The curriculum taught in WRDSB schools is aligned with and follows the directions of the Ministry of Education."
The negative impact on queer people from the first protest has been strong, Williams said. SPECTRUM has seen more requests for mental health support and peer support groups are seeing an increase in suicidality.
When asked why he thinks these issues have escalated to this point, Williams points to the rise in popularity of the internet and social media allowing people to connect in ways that weren't possible before. It's created an environment and levels of anger not seen in the past.
"Social media has been beneficial for queer and trans people, it can do good things," he said.
"The internet connects us all to information and should decrease ignorance but any views can find each other more easily and organize."
So what's next? Taking a step back is a place to start, Williams said.
"I wish that everyone would pause and take the time to think critically about these issues," he said.
"There’s no conspiracies, there's no indoctrination. I would love to see people take the time to educate themselves."