Dignity and safety are at the heart of equality.

Last Friday, West Coast LEAF was granted leave to intervene in an important case about dignity and safety for trans people.

In BC, the Human Rights Code (“Code”) sets out laws to protect and promote human rights, including protection from discrimination and harassment based on gender identity and gender expression, which are protected grounds in the Code. West Coast LEAF asserts that the link between discrimination and hate speech against gender-diverse people is clear. Oppression thrives in silence.

The case, Morgane Oger v William Whatcott, will be heard by the BC Human Rights Tribunal (“the Tribunal”). This case arose as a complaint by Ms. Oger when she ran for political office in Vancouver-False Creek.

Ms. Oger is BC’s first trans-identified provincial candidate. During the 2017 BC election, Mr. Whatcott produced and distributed flyers attacking Ms. Oger on the grounds of her gender identity and expression. The flyer called Ms. Oger’s gender identity an “impossibility,” and claims that transgender people are at an elevated risk of various diseases and violent acts. She alleges that these flyers expressed discriminatory, hateful, and contemptuous views of transgender people in general and Ms. Oger in particular.

The Tribunal is being asked to determine whether the publication and distribution of these materials indicate discrimination, show intention to discriminate, or expose Ms. Oger and transgender people more generally to hatred or contempt.

We believe that these flyers are attacks on Ms. Oger’s dignity and equality. We will address how best to balance freedom of expression and religion with the right to substantive equality in this context. Ultimately, we will argue that hateful expression is an act of discrimination in itself.

West Coast LEAF promotes the equality of all women and gender-diverse people in British Columbia. We recognize that gender-based inequalities threaten the safety, well-being, and human rights not only of women, but also of Two-Spirit people, intersex people, gender non-conforming people, trans people who do not identify as women, and people with non-binary gender identities.

We are awaiting the scheduling of the hearing, which is anticipated to be set for this fall or winter.