A member of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal likened a Christian fundamentalist’s flyers against a transgender NDP candidate in 2017 to a “whites only” sign.
Morgane Oger fell short of unseating BC Liberal incumbent Sam Sullivan by 560 votes in the May 9, 2017 provincial election. William Whatcott distributed 1,500 flyers under the title “Transgenderism vs. Truth in Vancouver‐False Creek” on street corners, taped to doors and in mailboxes around the riding, prompting B.C. NDP vice-president Oger to file a human rights complaint.
Whatcott was not a resident of the riding and he decided not to vote in the election, but claimed he was inspired by God to print the flyers against Oger. He claimed that a candidate’s morality and integrity are fair to scrutinize, pointing to Bill Clinton, Roy Moore, Donald Trump and even David Duke.
In a written decision, released March 27, tribunal member Devyn Cousineau dismissed the morality argument and called Whatcott’s smear campaign “an attempt to block the doors of government with a message that the political realm is for ‘cisgender people only’.”
Cousineau and fellow panelists Diana Juricevic and Norman Trerise found Whatcott violated section 7(1)(a) of the Human Rights Code and awarded Oger $35,000 plus $20,000 in costs. The section of the Code makes it illegal to publish any statement that indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or group because of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age.
Cousineau wrote that Whatcott deliberately identified Oger as a transgender woman and, “on that basis alone, impugned her moral integrity and fitness to hold public office.” The flyer used rhetorical techniques aimed at exposing Oger and transgender people to hatred and contempt and was designed to interfere with her participation in politics, she wrote.
“It drew on the most insidious stereotypes and myths about transgender people and called on the electorate to conclude that Ms. Oger was, by sole virtue of her gender identity, unsuitable for public office,” Cousineau wrote.
The flyer caused Oger to seek help from the Vancouver Police, who advised her not to park her car in front of her house and to advise the hate crimes division when she was going to appear at public events and to follow complex security arrangements.
Cousineau diplomatically described Whatcott’s conduct at the Dec. 11-17, 2018 hearing as “improper.” For instance, every day he wore a T-shirt with a large picture of Oger that said, on the front, “Mr. Oger, no matter how you use the state to silence your critics, you are still a guy” and “Male and Female he created them: Genesis 5:2” on the back.
Whatcott referred to the process in social media posts published during the hearing as a “kangaroo inquisition” and the panelists “kangaroo judges.” He testified it was an “affront to freedom of speech, freedom of conscience.”
Cousineau demanded Whatcott pay $20,000 in costs as the “strongest possible condemnation” of his behaviour during the hearing.
“Most people would not have been able to withstand the level of discrimination that Ms. Oger faced during the Tribunal’s hearing,” Cousineau wrote. “More importantly: they should not have to. All people, and here I identify transgender people in particular, should know that if they choose to file a complaint at this Tribunal they will be treated with dignity and respect. Ms. Oger’s experience suggests the opposite. I cannot think of conduct that strikes more directly at the heart of the integrity of this Tribunal’s process and its mission. To her immense credit, Ms. Oger comported herself with grace and dignity in the face of the persistent efforts to insult, undermine, and humiliate her.”
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