Release: BC Human Rights Tribunal: Hate speech on the basis of gender identity prohibited

Today, the BC Human Rights Tribunal (“BCHRT”) released its decision on a complaint arising under the BC Human Rights Code’s (“the Code”) prohibition against discriminatory publications. The case, Oger v Whatcott, was heard in December 2018.

The BCHRT found in favour of the complainant that Mr. Whatcott violated s. 7 of the Code and engaged in hate speech.

In 2017, Morgane Oger ran for political office as an MLA for the Vancouver-False Creek riding. She was the first trans-identified candidate to run for election in the provincial legislature. Bill Whatcott produced and published pamphlets and made comments online attacking Ms. Oger on the basis of her gender identity. Among other things, Mr. Whatcott questioned the existence of Ms. Oger’s identity as a trans woman, calling her an “impossibility,” and linked transgender identity to an increased propensity for contracting diseases and for domestic violence.

Ms. Oger filed a complaint under s. 7 of the BC Human Rights Code, which prohibits publications that indicate discrimination or an intention to discriminate or which expose a person or class of persons to hatred or contempt. She described Mr. Whatcott’s pamphlets as harmful to her personally, and as exposing other trans people to discrimination, hatred, and contempt.

West Coast LEAF intervened to make submissions on how the Tribunal should interpret the Code’s prohibition against discriminatory publications in light of Charter values, including Ms. Oger’s right to the equal protection and benefit of the law, and the purposes of the Code.

“This decision affirms that the rights of transgender people to safety and dignity are essential human rights,” says Kasari Govender, Executive Director of West Coast LEAF. “Hate speech that vilifies and attempts to erase trans identity and to deny the dignity of transgender people is an attempt to dehumanize them. The Tribunal clearly states that denying the reality of transgender people is at the root of most discrimination against them.”

She adds, “West Coast LEAF is deeply committed to a broad vision of gender equality – one that includes the rights of all women, transgender, and gender-diverse people. This decision is an important affirmation that transgender people are equal in our society and have a right to be treated with dignity.”