In wake of homophobic tirade LGBTQ+ advocate says bigotry and harassment on rise
An 2SLGBTQ+ advocate believes hateful online rhetoric is fuelling a rise in real world harassment against members of the queer community – and says a recent homophobic tirade caught on video in downtown Vancouver is only the latest example.
"That started in America through far-right groups and it's also growing here as they translate online rhetoric into in-person harassment,” Fae Johnstone said. “And that is what we should all be on guard against."
Johnstone is executive director of Wisdom2Action, which describes itself as a 2SLGBTQ+ consulting firm with a focus on anti-oppression and social justice.
In the video, shot Saturday night and posted to TikTok and Twitter, a man can be seen using homophobic slurs and xenophobic language towards a couple who claim he followed them off the SkyTrain.
Jamie Pine and Reg Acervo said the confrontation took place late on Saturday night as they rode the train downtown for a night out.
"He was rocking back and forth with his beer can. He was looking at my boyfriend,” said Pine, who posted the videos. “He just kept looking and I was looking at the reflection (in the train window).”
Uncomfortable and frightened, Pine began recording on his cellphone and says the man followed the couple when they exited the train at Burrard Station.
"He chased us down the platform, up the escalator, up to the bus,” Pine said in the TikTok video.
Once outside, the man unleashed a torrent of inflammatory comments at the couple.
“If your boyfriends, get a f***ing hotel room. We don’t need to see that f***ing sh*t in public!” the man yells. “Don’t like it? Get the f**k out of Canada.”
According to Pine, Acervo may have placed a hand on his knee during part of the train ride.
“There’s kids on the SkyTrain,” the man says at one point.
Pine and Acervo said nothing about their interactions with each other before and during the encounter would be considered inappropriate in any context.
Premier David Eby took to Twitter to condemn the aggressive man’s actions.
“Jamie, I’m sorry this happened to you and your boyfriend. This is disgusting behaviour. If two people in love makes someone this angry - they’re the problem, not you. We must always stand up against racism, homophobia and all other forms of hate,” the premier wrote.
CTV News asked Eby about the tweet during a media availability from Ottawa, where he and Canada’s other premiers are taking part in health care talks with the federal government.
"I just felt it was important to send that message to that young couple and say you are not alone in this,” Eby said. “The vast majority of British Columbians support you."
Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim also used Twitter to talk about the video.
There is no place for this kind of behaviour in our city.
“Hateful and bigoted comments are never acceptable in Vancouver, or anywhere else. This is an important reminder of work that we must do to combat racism and homophobia in our city,” the mayor tweeted.
“Events like this aren’t all that uncommon,” said Johnstone. “It’s just a rarity we get them on video.”
She said members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community are being targeted by online extremists and the mainstreaming of their ideas leads to confrontations like the one Pine and Acervo experienced.
“The real worry here is that this isn’t isolated. Across Canada we are seeing an unprecedented surge in anti-2SLGBTQ+ hate,” said Johnstone. “This is connected to far right groups that are mobilising all across the country targeting drag events and targeting inclusion in schools.”
A Vancouver police officer saw the videos of the interaction posted online and proactively reached out to Pine and Acervo, who had not reported the incident.
VPD says an investigation is underway, and it has interviewed the couple and viewed the videos, but has not yet identified the man acting aggressively towards them.
In an email to CTV News, a VPD media liaison specifically referred to that man as "the suspect" but police have not said what kind of charges might be considered if they are able to identify him.
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