Justice Centre to Intervene in Free Speech and Gender Identity Human Rights Case

The Justice Centre has announced that it has been granted intervener status in the BC Human Rights case of Oger v. Whatcott, Case No. 16408.

During the 2017 British Columbia provincial election campaign, activist Bill Whatcott handed out over 1,000 flyers in the electoral district of Vancouver False Creek.  The flyers identified the Vancouver False Creek NDP candidate, Morgane Oger, as Ronan Oger (a male to female transgender person).  Prior to being a candidate, Oger was a local trans activist who had left a female partner and the children fathered with her.

Oger narrowly lost the campaign to a former Vancouver mayor, and blamed the loss on Whatcott. Oger (who now self-identifies as a woman) filed a human rights complaint against Whatcott, alleging that Whatcott’s flyers had exposed Oger to “hatred or contempt” under section 7 of the BC Human Rights Code.  In the flyers, Whatcott stated his belief that DNA and God determine gender, and that it is a delusion to think that an individual can truly change his or her gender.

The Justice Centre has been granted permission to intervene in the case, on both freedom of religion and freedom of expression as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In May 2017, the Justice Centre made submissions to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in Ottawa on Bill C-16, which added gender identity and gender expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Justice Centre’s submissions expressed concern about the potential for state-coerced speech, and resulting punishment for non-compliance, and the unconstitutionality of attempting to compel unwilling Canadians to use new pronouns or otherwise express concurrence with a person’s self-identified gender.

“The Justice Centre will make submissions in this case regarding the interplay of religious beliefs and freedom of expression,” stated John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. “The Supreme Court of Canada has found that freedom of religion includes “the right to declare religious beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination”, he continued.