No First Amendment? In Canada, calling a trans woman a 'biological' man is hate speech

Whenever I’m looking for news about religion that’s beyond weird, I only have to look north across the border to the latest oddity happening in western Canada.

Canada doesn’t have freedom of speech in the same way we enjoy it down here. Its constitution gives its citizens the right to free speech with “reasonable limits” and its Human Rights Act prohibits the “communication of hate messages.” As you would expect, this affects debates about religion and morality, thus creating news.

For example, if you call a trans woman a “biological male” in Canada, that statement about DNA can be construed as hate speech, which is what led to a Christian activist getting fined $55,000. We’ll start with what the Toronto Star wrote last week about all this:

VANCOUVER—A Vancouver human-rights tribunal has ruled there’s no room for public debate about whether transgender people are who they say they are.

Well-known trans advocate Morgane Oger filed the complaint against Christian activist Bill Whatcott after he distributed flyers disparaging her for being a trans woman…

The flyers Whatcott distributed described Oger as a “biological male” and a “transvestite” who is “embracing transgender propaganda and trying to live a lie.” They referenced Oger’s pre-transition name alongside a photo of her before she transitioned.

The flyers were distributed in the Vancouver-False Creek riding in 2017 when Oger was running for office with the B.C. NDP.

Oger’s human-rights complaint said the flyers were discriminatory and hateful. Whatcott denied the allegations, asserting that his freedom of speech and religion entitled him to publish his views on Oger. …

Oger said she is relieved by the decision but is also feeling emotionally drained, having just read through the decision before speaking with the Star.

“I am really so happy, that in a tribunal, using the law, we finally put it down that someone publishing hateful material that says that a transgender woman is a man, got in trouble,” she said.

Now think about that. Is it hateful to merely say a trans woman is a bio male? The Toronto Star and the Vancouver Star seem to be interchangeable, by the way and the same reporter who wrote the above story also wrote this thinly disguised editorial celebrating the end of “transphobia.”

So here is that increasingly familiar journalism issue: There is not a contrary view to be found anywhere in it.

But hey, who needs objectivity and balance above the 49th parallel? And what exactly did Whatcott have to say? I had to go to the (Vancouver) CityNews to find out:

The papers Whatcott handed out was a letter informing the public of the “promotion and growth of homosexulaty and transvestitsm” in B.C.. The flyer stated Oger “embraced a transvestite lifestyle” and is promoting a “false narrative” being a transgender women.

I’m assuming the typos are from Whatcott. The Toronto-based LifeSiteNews included a full copy of the court’s 105-page ruling on its site and referred to Oger with male pronouns.

Here’s another journalism issue: I’m curious if a Canadian news/advocacy organization can be accused of hate by using a subject’s birth gender instead their trans gender. Interesting thought.

Whatcott’s lawyer, Dr. Charles Lugosi, intended to give evidence that Oger was, in fact, a biological male as a defense.

Tribunal judge Devyn Cousineau, however, ruled “the ‘truth’ of the statements in the flyer is not a defense.”

The ruling, penned by Cousineau, declared that even questioning transgenderism is discriminatory.

“[T]he proposition that we should continue to debate and deny the existence of trans people is at the root of the prejudice and stereotypes that continue to oppress them,” wrote Cousineau.

“It rests on the persistent belief, held by people like Mr. Whatcott, that a person’s genitals are the essential determinant of their sex and, therefore, gender. The result of this belief is to necessarily cast transgender people as either ‘deceivers or pretenders’,” she wrote.

In this story, the Vancouver Sun called Whatcott an “anti-gay” activist, although this is a misnomer. The story is about his issues with transgender folks.

In contrast, Oger gets much more respectful treatment, such as this video clip from MacLeans about Oger’s gender switch. Ditto for this Vancouver Sun piece calling her a “transgender trailblazer.”

The Sun also mentioned that Oger lost the election by 400 votes. Is the lawsuit against Whatcott about revenge? Shouldn’t reporters have asked that question?

The whole transgender debate doesn’t just affect folks like Whatcott. LifeSiteNews also just published a story about a rape crisis center in Vancouver losing its funding because it won’t admit trans men.

The National Post wrote this about the matter:

Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, Canada’s oldest rape crisis centre, has been stripped of city funding after refusing to rescind its policy of only serving female-born women.

In a statement, the organization said they were the victim of “discrimination against women in the name of inclusion” and accused Vancouver City Council of trying to “coerce us to change our position.”

Meanwhile, the measure was cheered by activists who have long singled out Vancouver Rape Relief as a bastion of “trans-exclusionary” behaviour.

One of the activists was Oger. The story is a fascinating read because:

The defunding is the latest flashpoint in an ongoing struggle between transgender activists and feminist organizations who maintain that female-born and male-born women should remain distinct groups. …

Men are strictly banned from spaces operated by Vancouver Rape Relief, and the organization has previously argued that their clients, all of whom are recovering from male violence, do not feel comfortable while in the presence of someone who used to live as a man. “Even deep voices, male insignia like baseball caps and boots can make women nervous,” wrote Lee Lakeman, a founder of the centre, in 2006.

This is not going to end well for someone. The same battle is shaping up in regards to high school girl’s sports where the young trans women are beating bio girls. Fortunately, it’s not hate speech in U.S. law to complain about this. I’m curious what the case is among Canadian high schoolers.

Whatcott is obviously a well-known activist in Canada. There’s not much out there about his religious history other than this Amazon listing of his autobiography that recounts his rather colorful pre-conversion history. Central to his story is his contention that he has more right to free speech than Canadian law is prepared to give him.

The degree to which Canadian law trumps freedom of speech and maybe freedom of religion is a fascinating topic that needs a far more in-depth treatment than I currently see in Canadian media. I’m happy to be informed if I’ve missed any fascinating profiles or think pieces on this topic, but I don’t think I have. Judging from the treatment of the rape center, I’m guessing Canadian laws aren’t going to interfere solely with outliers like Whatcott.

Who they affect next is what journalists up there need to be covering, and not in the patronizing way the Toronto/Vancouver Star reporter deals with it. Today it’s Whatcott, but tomorrow? And is it just to refer to all these folks as transphobic crazies and fine them for speaking their minds? That sounds like an important news story.

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