Dozens of demonstrators protest anti-SOGI speaker at UBC
A controversial speaker accused of promoting transphobic hate speech is scheduled to talk at the University of British Columbia Sunday.
Despite multiple attempts from different groups to get the university to cancel the event, Jenn Smith's public talk will go ahead as planned. The title of the talk is "The Erosion of Freedom: How Transgender Politics in School and Society is Undermining Our Freedom and Harming Women and Children."
Smith, who identifies as male, has been touring in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
He has been critical of B.C. school's sexual orientation and gender identity program. SOGI 123 is a school resource designed to support LGBTQ students through inclusivity programs and educational resources.
According to his blog, "This talk is designed as an analysis of laws, policies, and programs that jeopardize some of the most important rights and freedoms in our society, which includes startling techniques designed to shut down all opposition to official policies."
BC Families for Inclusivity is concerned the event will spread misinformation about SOGI.
“It isn’t up for debate,” said Carrie Bercic with BC Families for Inclusivity. “SOGI is a provincially mandated set of resources that align with the BC Human Rights Code. It is a human right to exist at school in a safe, stable, emotionally supportive environment.”
Smith’s events at Trinity Western University and Douglas College were both cancelled earlier this month.
His talk at Oak Bay in May was met with dozens of protesters.
Many student and staff groups said they are deeply concerned UBC is allowing the university to serve as a "platform for bigoted, anti-transgender hate speech."
The Association of Administrative and Professional Staff of UBC, which represents an estimated 5,000 members, wrote a letter to the university’s president, expressing its disapproval.
“I think it is shameful and embarrassing for the university,” executive director Joey Hansen told CTV News. “Unfortunately, the university has chosen sides of bigots over the concerns of the university community and the community’s wellbeing and safety.”
In a statement, provost Andrew Szeri said the event was not booked or sponsored by anyone from the university, but instead, from an external party, adding UBC does not support the views of controversial speakers.
He said the university will not ban or cancel events because it supports free speech on campus.
"Selectively shutting down conversations on complex and challenging topics undermines that crucial foundation that enables challenge of the status quo. Ultimately, silenced opinions are not subject to 'full and unrestricted consideration'," he said in a news release.
Hansen said his organization "wholeheartedly reject(s)" the university's argument.
“I think there’s a difference between free speech and hate speech…Smith isn’t part of the university community; they’re not student, they’re not staff, they’re not faculty. The university has no obligation to provide them with a platform for bigotry,” he said.
In response, the BC Families of Inclusivity has organized a rally to support trans rights ahead of Smith's talk at 6 p.m. at Martha Piper Plaza.