Michael Boyd, 9, holds up a sign supporting SOGI123 in B.C. Schools. The Surrey boy came out as transgender to his family six years ago. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

SIMPSON: Powerful placards best left out of tiny hands

Parents, stop trotting children out in front of reporters and TV cameras at protests and rallies

“Simpson,” Peter grunted as he passed my cubicle in a huff.

He pointed to his office with a stubby brownish-yellow finger, stained from decades of chain smoking.

“Get in here. Now.”

The late Peter Godfrey was the managing editor of the Nanaimo Daily News, where I was developing my journalistic chops at the night desk.

A former hard-nosed cop, Peter was the kind of editor every young, sensitive journalist fears.

Chewing out his staff in no uncertain terms was his modus operandi. His indignant rants were the stuff of legend.

One day, we watched with sordid bemusement as a fellow editor sat sheepishly in Peter’s office for three straight hours, facing Peter’s red-faced wrath.

And now, it would seem, it was my turn.

“What’s this?” he asked as he flopped the latest Daily News on his desk in disgust.

“Well, um,” I remember stuttering. “I guess it’s a story about a protest.”

Peter stared me down, his face turning a deeper crimson by the second.

“And the photo?” he replied.

“Well, it’s a photo of people holding signs at the…”

“IT’S A G__DDAMN KID!” Peter erupted.

“Don’t ever put a photo of a kid at a protest in my paper again, got it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Now get out.”

I escaped relatively easily that day but the lesson stuck.

Today, more and more parents are getting their children involved in political activism.

In the U.S. thousands of students recently picked up their hand-made posters and walked out of class in a nationwide protest against gun violence after the killing of 17 people in a Florida high school.

Closer to home, hundreds of people showed up to counter-protest an anti-SOGI 123 rally in Vancouver. Front and centre was a nine-year-old from Surrey.

And on the opposite side of that debate, a group of about 30 people – including young children – gathered in Chilliwack on Monday to protest the SOGI 123 program.

Up there in the big newsroom in the sky, Peter must be losing it. I can hear him now.

“How many of these kids fully understand these complex issues? How many are just parroting their parents’ political views?” I imagine him bellowing.

“And why are you splashing these kids all over your newspapers and websites?”


Granted, prickly Peter Godfrey was without a doubt what some might call old fashioned (to put it politely).

But I have since come to agree with him on this.

Of course, each situation is different and sometimes youngsters are there simply due to things like a lack of child care.

But, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum – and whether you applaud young people for getting involved or shake your head at their parents for allowing it –

it does raise a valid question.

How young is too young for parents to involve their children at a protest or rally, much less trot them out in front of reporters and TV cameras?

As for me? I side with you on this one, Peter.

So please, don’t yell at me.

Beau Simpson is editor of the Now-Leader. Email beau.simpson@surreynowleader.com



beau.simpson@surreynowleader.com

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