Precedent setting: Tribunal hears Oger v Whatcott hate publication complaint.
Vancouver, December 2018:
BC Human Rights Tribunal heard Morgane Oger’s complaint that Bill Whatcott violated the hate speech provisions in the BC Human Rights Code when he published and distributed a flyer urging voters to vote against her on the basis of her gender identity.
During the 2017 BC election, Bill Whatcott produced and distributed flyers attacking Ms. Oger on the grounds of her gender identity and expression. The flyer called Ms. Oger’s gender identity an “impossibility,” and claimed that transgender people are at an elevated risk of various diseases and violent acts.
Susanna Quail, legal counsel for Oger, argued that while the case brought up several competing rights enshrined in Canadian law, the right to not be discriminated against was more significant in this case than freedom of conscience and the right to express yourself.
Section 7 of the B.C. Human Rights Code
“A person must not publish, issue or display…any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or a group or class of persons…because of the…sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression…of that person or that group or class of persons.”
“There is a distinction between the freedom to hold a belief and the freedom to act on that belief … (Whatcott) is not being told what to believe, he is being told what the limits are on communicating that belief,” she said during the hearing.
Quail also argued that Whatcott’s flyers were intended to exclude Oger from the democratic process.
Bill Whatcott has previously lost at the Supreme Court of Canada on a similar incident targeting sexual orientation and currently faces criminal charges in Ontario for inciting hatred at the Toronto Pride parade, where he distributed similar flyers to those involved in Oger v Whatcott.
Already the subject of over a dozen procedural rulings, the final decision in Oger v Whatcott is expected from the Tribunal in 2019.
According to a December 11 media release issued by West Coast LEAF, an intervenor in Oger’s case, the documents distributed by Whatcott constitute a breach of section 7 of the B.C. Human Rights Code.