Release: Hate speech hearing set to begin at the BC Human Rights Tribunal

VANCOUVER – This week, West Coast LEAF will intervene at the BC Human Rights Tribunal in a complaint arising under the BC Human Rights Code’s prohibition against discriminatory publications. The case, Oger v Whatcott, will be heard over five days, from December 11-14, and on December 17.

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 has described Mr. Whatcott’s pamphlets as harmful to her personally, and as exposing other trans people to discrimination, hatred, and contempt.

West Coast LEAF is intervening 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.

“The rights of transgender people to safety and dignity are essential human rights,” says Raji Mangat, Director of Litigation at West Coast LEAF. “Hate speech directed at transgender people is aimed at vilifying them and erasing their identity. All people, including public figures like Ms. Oger, have the right to be free from discriminatory, hateful public comment.”

“West Coast LEAF is deeply committed to a broad vision of gender equality – one that includes the rights of women, transgender, and gender-diverse people,” says Kasari Govender, Executive Director of West Coast LEAF. “This case speaks to the legal protections necessary to ensure that transgender people are equal in our society.”