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 believes that the link between discrimination and hate speech against gender-diverse people is clear.
The case, Morgane Oger v William Whatcott, was 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 claimed 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 was 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.
The BC Human Rights Tribunal released its judgment on March 27, 2019. The Tribunal found in favour of the complainant, Ms. Oger, that the defendant, Mr. Whatcott, violated s. 7 of the Code and engaged in hate speech.
West Coast LEAF’s involvement
West Coast LEAF was granted leave to intervene in this important case about dignity and safety for trans people. We believe that these expressions are attacks on Ms. Oger’s dignity and equality. We addressed how best to balance freedom of expression and religion with the right to substantive equality in this context. Ultimately, we argued that hateful expression is an act of discrimination in itself.
- Application for leave to intervene – BC Human Rights Tribunal
- Decision to grant leave – BC Human Rights Tribunal
- Written argument – BC Human Rights Tribunal
- Judgment – BC Human Rights Tribunal
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