A transgender activist from Vancouver who was awarded $55,000 by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal this week will be speaking at a Kamloops church on Saturday, March 30.
Morgane Oger will be at the Hills of Peace Lutheran Church, 695 Robson Dr., at 4 p.m., when she will speak about the challenges to living a life of faith and barriers experienced by trans people. Oger will will offer insights, experience and take questions. The presentation is open to all.
Earlier this week, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ordered Christian activist William Whatcott to pay $55,000 to Oger.
Tribunal member Devyn Cousineau said $35,000 was compensation for a hate-filled flyer Whatcott published when Oger was running for provincial office in 2017, and $20,000 was to punish Whatcott for improper conduct during the five-day hearing in December.
Following this week’s ruling, Whatcott told News1130 in Vancouver he will not pay the fine and plans to be in Kamloops this weekend.
According to the tribunal ruling, Whatcott printed 1,500 of the flyers and distributed them in the Vancouver-False Creek riding that Oger was contesting as an NDP candidate. The flyer had a photo of Oger, described her as a “biological male” and claimed she was promoting “homosexuality and transvestism.” It went on to state transsexuals were prone to sexually transmitted diseases and at risk of domestic violence, alcohol abuse and suicide.
The flyer concluded, “Thankfully Jesus Christ paid the price for your sin. You can turn to the merciful Christ and ask for forgiveness and when the NDP come knocking at your door you can tell them, you wont vote for them because you believe in God’s definition of gender and marriage.”
Oger, who lost the election by 400 votes, took the matter to the tribunal, claiming her human rights had been breached because the flyer was intended to discriminate and expose Oger to hatred. Whatcott claimed what he wrote in the flyer was an act of religious expression.In the ruling, Cousineau described a five-day hearing during which Whatcott was wearing a white T-shirt with Oger’s face on it, and derogatory statements written underneath.
“In the hearing room for this complaint, we were witness to repeated, deliberate and flagrant attacks on Ms. Oger based on nothing more than a belief that her very existence is an affront,” Cousineau wrote, adding Whatcott continued to call Oger “he” and “mister” during the course of the hearing, despite being told not to.
Whatcott told the hearing that he produced the flyer after praying to God to ask how he could help in the election.
Cousineau noted “there is conflict in this case between Mr. Whatcott’s religious belief that he should do everything in his power to stop a transgender woman from being elected to public office, and Ms. Oger’s right — and the right of transpeople more broadly — to enjoy equal dignified participation in the political life of this province.”
The three-person tribunal ruled that Whatcott had discriminated against Oger based solely on her gender.
“In my view,” Cousineau wrote, “the flyer is a modern version of a ‘whites only’ sign. It is an attempt to block the doors of government with a message that the political realm is for ‘cisgender people only’.”
He said the discrimination was severe and it was an intentional effort to block Oger from participating in politics, based on gender.
The tribunal also ruled the flyer subjected Oger to hate, and referred to a case in Saskatchewan where Whatcott had previously distributed flyers that were ruled by the Supreme Court of Canada to be hateful.
Oger was cross-examined for four hours and 15 minutes by Whatcott’s lawyer.
Later in the hearing, she stated, “I’m a transgender woman. People kill transgender women because of who we are. And they start with this. And it’s impossible to tell whether this is the ramblings of a person who’s likely to do that, or if it’s not. After this flyer came out, I had to worry what Mr. Whatcott looked like, but I also had to worry about other people who maybe gave him credibility. … It’s a vulnerable place already to be a candidate. And to be a transgender candidate is really vulnerable. Because people listen to outrageous things like this.”
Oger said that she had to explain to her two children that “somebody hates me because of who I am.”
In 2015, Whatcott delivered flyers to some residences in Kamloops, with the flyers containing anti-gay, anti-CBC messages. Shortly afterwards, Whatcott moved to the Philippines, but has since returned.