Free expression trial of Amy Hamm nears its end

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Free expression trial of Amy Hamm nears its end

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VANCOUVER, BC: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is providing lawyers for British Columbia nurse Amy Hamm, whose disciplinary hearings will conclude on March 18-19, 2024. Oral arguments, beginning at 10:00 a.m. PT, will conclude the hearing before the three-person Disciplinary Committee of the British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives in Vancouver. Lawyers will also answer any questions the panel may have following the submissions. The public is invited to view the proceedings online.

The prosecution of Amy Hamm over the off-duty expression of her opinions dates back to September 2020, when she co-sponsored a billboard featuring the words, “I ♥ JK Rowling” – a reference to the famous British author who, in 2019, came to the defense of a British woman whose employment contract was terminated after expressing “gender critical views.”

Two complaints by members of the public to the College about Ms. Hamm’s involvement with the billboard led to an investigation. That resulted in a 332-page report on Ms. Hamm’s activities, including a collection of her tweets, podcast transcripts and articles she had authored on the topic of gender identity and its conflict with women’s rights and the safeguarding of children.

The charge against Ms. Hamm reads, “Between approximately July 2018 and March 2021, you made discriminatory and derogatory statements regarding transgender people, while identifying yourself as a nurse or nurse educator. These statements were made across various online platforms, including but not limited to, podcasts, videos, published writings and social media.” The hearing began on September 21, 2022, and the panel heard 20 days of testimony, including approximately five days of challenges to the expert evidence provided by Ms. Hamm.

Much of the hearings to date has concentrated on the qualification, testimony and questioning of expert witnesses for both sides. The College presented as experts Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc and Dr. Greta Bauer, who argued that statements made by J. K. Rowling were “transphobic” and, by extension, so were Ms. Hamm’s. In Ms. Hamm’s defense, her legal team presented experts Dr. James Cantor, Dr. Kathleen Stock and Dr. Linda Blade.

As stated in their February 19, 2024, written submissions to the Committee, Ms. Hamm’s lawyers argue that:

  1. There is no evidence of breach of standards or bylaws, nor a case for a finding of unprofessional conduct;
  2. Her statements do not have a sufficient nexus to her status as a nurse to warrant regulatory interference;
  3. Her speech is reasonable and scientifically supportable;
  4. There is social value to her speech;
  5. Her advocacy is conducted in good faith, including to affect political change;
  6. She believes in the truth of her statements;
  7. There is no evidence of “discrimination” or “harm;”
  8. The infringement of her Charter right to freedom of expression, belief and opinion cannot be justified on a proportionate balancing against the objectives of the College.”

Lisa Bildy, lawyer for Amy Hamm, stated, “A key issue in this case is whether professionals can express criticism of gender identity ideology or other political issues in the public square without being subject to regulatory discipline. We argue that the College has allowed itself and its disciplinary process to become participants in a public and political controversy on which it should not be taking a side. The College should enforce high standards of performance for nurses and midwives when caring for their patients, and otherwise refrain from taking sides on political, cultural and moral issues that are debated in the public square. The College has lost its way.”

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