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For those who cherish a free society, the recent BC Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) ruling in Oger v. Whatcott is an alarming step toward a darker future in which the government actively punishes citizens who object to political correctness.  The BCHRT has ordered a Canadian citizen to pay $55,000 for peacefully expressing the “wrong” opinions.

The case arose during the 2017 British Columbia provincial election, in which Oger ran unsuccessfully for the NDP.  Whatcott distributed a one-page flyer stating, in part, that Oger “is a biological male who has renamed himself ‘Morgane Oger’ after he embraced a transvestite lifestyle. Ronan is running for the NDP in the Vancouver-False Creek riding and BC’s media and the NDP are promoting a false narrative that Ronan is a woman born into a male body.”

Whatcott further stated: “I am writing this flyer this election to share my concern about the promotion and growth of homosexuality and transvestitism in British Columbia and how it is obscuring the immutable truth about our God given gender.  …. the media, NDP, and everyone in the riding might try to pretend Ronan is a woman. But the truth is Ronan’s DNA will always be male, he will never have a uterus, and no amount of cosmetic surgery, fake hormones, or media propaganda is going to be able to change these facts. …   ‘transgenderism’ is an impossibility. A male cannot ‘transition’ into a female, nor can a female ‘transition’ into a male. One can only cross dress and disfigure themselves with surgery and hormones to look like the gender they are not. This practice is harmful and displeasing to God.”

Whatcott is no angel.  He often uses inflammatory and offensive language that repels even those who might be his ideological allies.  For example: “Those who embrace the transvestite and homosexual lifestyles put themselves at greatly increased risk of diseases such as HIV, syphilis, HPV of the rectum, anal gonorrhea, Hepatitis A,B & C, etc…. Homosexuals and transgenders are also at increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, and domestic violence. In addition to the physical and social consequences of adopting a false sexual and gender identity, there are spiritual consequences too.  Our God is a God of truth.”

In its ruling, the BCHRT reproduced Whatcott’s flyer in its entirety, including text not cited above.  The BCHRT ordered Whatcott to pay $35,000 to Oger for having peacefully distributed offensive flyers during an election, plus $20,000 regarding “improper conduct” during the hearing.  Most of Whatcott’s “improper conduct” consisted of referring to Oger as a man.

There can be little doubt that Whatcott’s flyer was, and is, upsetting and highly offensive to many people, including Oger. But a free and diverse country doesn’t punish the peaceful expression of ideas and beliefs, however offensive, hurtful, false, or wrong the majority might consider them.  Most Canadians would likely consider Whatcott a jerk.  But in a tolerant nation, being a jerk isn’t against the law, nor should it be punished to the tune of $55,000.

The fine for drunk driving, a Criminal Code offense which directly endangers the lives of other people, and an act that is strongly stigmatized as a profound societal evil, is $1,000 for a first offence.  By contrast, a tyrannical and out-of-control government body has ordered Whatcott to pay more than what many Canadians earn, after tax, during an entire year, simply for distributing flyers peacefully during an election.

In a free country, Oger can identify as a woman.  That’s Oger’s right.  But it is equally the right of other people – all people – to disagree with Oger, and to voice that disagreement.

Even more scary than the $55,000 penalty is the Tribunal’s arrogant assumption that it has the right to determine truth on behalf of all citizens, in this case, the “truth” about transgenderism.  In its ruling, the BCHRT claims that Oger is a “victim of oppression” whose “very existence” is in danger of being “marginalized,” simply by someone stating that Oger is biologically male and therefore not a woman.  The BCHRT claims that Whatcott’s flyer somehow has the power to impede “meaningful participation in social and political decision‐making,” and concludes that the flyer “does not engage in topics of valuable ongoing public discussion.”

By imposing its progressive, post-modernist, and politically correct opinion on Whatcott, this government body likewise imposes it on all of society.  The message is clear to all citizens: if you refuse to kowtow to political correctness, you will pay a heavy price.

Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca), which intervened before the BC Human Rights Tribunal in the Oger v. Whatcott case.