Man fined $55,000 by BC Human Rights Tribunal over peaceful distribution of flyers critical of transgender political candidate

VANCOUVER: The Justice Centre today responded to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) ruling in Morgane Oger v. Bill Whatcott. The BCHRT ordered Whatcott to pay $55,000 to Oger in a case arising from Whatcott having peacefully distributed flyers during the 2017 BC provincial election.

“The Supreme Court of Canada has long held that freedom of expression is the life blood of democracy,” explains lawyer and Justice Centre President John Carpay.  “Society is full of people with diverse views and the Tribunal’s decision undermines the foundational principles of the free society and jeopardizes the health of Canada’s democracy,” continued Carpay.

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 flyer, which is displayed on the last page of the BCHRT ruling, expressed Whatcott’s opinions and “concern about the promotion and growth of homosexuality and transvestitism in British Columbia.” In his flyers, Whatcott asserted that NDP candidate Morgane Oger was a male, and argued that “[t]hose who promote falsehoods like the NDP and BC’s major media . . . do so to their eternal peril.”

Oger narrowly lost the campaign to a former Vancouver mayor.

Oger filed a human rights complaint against Whatcott, alleging that Whatcott’s flyers had exposed Oger to discrimination, hatred and contempt under section 7 of the BC Human Rights Code.

The Justice Centre was granted intervenor status in this human rights case, to make submissions in defence of freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The BC Human Rights Tribunal heard this case from December 11 to 17, 2018. The Justice Centre’s submissions focused on the interpretation and application of the freedom of expression, guaranteed under section 2(b) of the Charter, in the Tribunal’s adjudication of the complaint.  In particular, the Justice Centre’s submissions focused on the critical importance of freedom of expression to the democratic discourse, especially during elections.