Today, the BC Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Bill Whatcott violated the provisions of the BC Human Rights Code’s publication limits. The Tribunal ordered Bill Whatcott to pay a record-setting amount in compensation for indicating his intention to discriminate against me and publishing material that is likely to expose me and other transgender people to hatred or contempt.
Because he acted so egregious during the complaint process, the Tribunal also ordered Bill Whatcott to pay an unprecedented penalty for misbehaviour on top of that hefty award, for a total award of $55,000.
With so many watching in the midst of the 2017 election, Mr Whatcott’s actions were hurtful and humiliating. I am deeply satisfied by the BC Human Rights Tribunal ruling. It confirms that what Mr Whatcott’s actions were in fact prohibited discrimination and I hope this will help dampen hate propaganda aimed at transgender persons and others facing discrimination in Canada.
The main takeaways of 105-page ruling include:
- Prohibitions against publishing an intention to discriminate or inciting hatred includes doing so against transgender persons on the basis of their gender identity or expression by denying the validity of their identity.
- Protections afforded to all Canadians by the Charter of Rights, such as freedom of expression or of religion, do not give an unlimited license to act in a discriminatory way against others on the basis of explicitly-prohibited grounds.
- The protection from discrimination on the basis of gender identity includes refusing to recognize a transgender woman as a woman in publications.
This ruling confirms my long-held position that organizations or individuals publishing denials that transgender women are women or encouraging discrimination against transgender women on the basis we are transgender are encouraging prohibited discrimination and in violation of our human rights laws.
The panel has found that Mr. Whatcott violated s. 7 of the Code.
We order as follows:
a. Pursuant ss. 37(2)(a) and (b) of the Code, we declare that Mr. Whatcott’s conduct was discrimination contrary to the Code, and we order him to cease the
contravention and refrain from committing the same or a similar contravention.
b. Pursuant to s. 37(2)(d)(iii), we order Mr. Whatcott to pay Ms. Oger $35,000 as
compensation for injury to her dignity, feelings, and self‐respect.
c. Pursuant to s. 37(4), we order Mr. Whatcott to pay Ms. Oger $20,000 as costs for improper conduct.
d. We order Mr. Whatcott to pay Ms. Oger post‐judgement interest on theBC Human Rights Tribunal, Oger v. Whatcott (No. 7), 2019 BCHRT 58
amounts awarded until paid in full, based on the rates set out in the Court Order
“This decision is really a landmark decision in establishing the scope of protections under the human-rights code for transgender people,” my lawyer Susanna Allevato Quail told Star Vancouver reporter Tessa Vikander. “This is really groundbreaking.”
The transgender community has been complaining for years that many organizations and writers publish material claiming that transgender people are not who we say we are, going as far as claiming women should be denied access to services set aside for women on the basis of being transgender, as illustrated in published works by Vancouver Rape Relief, Feminist Current, Barbara Kay, and Meghan Murphy.
With this decision, I hope that Canadians dealing with hateful publications now have one more legal tool to help address this problem.
Click here to read the ruling in its entirety.
I am profoundly grateful to West Coast Leaf and the BC Teachers Federation for intervening in support of my position this complaint. I am also grateful to all the organizations, friends, and allies who supported me and my family through this horrible process. Access to justice should be more accessible and less searing than what I experienced as a complainant. I have the deepest empathy for people who face this process alone.
I write about inclusion and political issues while working to narrow the gap between the laws we took great pains to create and their real-world implementation.