Equal UBC standards sought on “platforming hate propaganda” against Indigenous and transgender people

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      Rights activist Morgane Oger is seeking a dialogue with the leadership of UBC.

      It’s about what the Vancouver-based transgender advocate describes on social media as the university’s policy on “platforming hate propaganda”.

      Oger wants to know if transgender people will have the same protection that was accorded by the university to Indigenous people in connection with a controversial on-campus event that was ultimately cancelled.

      “What I’m asking is, can the transgender community count on UBC to apply the same test that they apply about Indigenous peoples?” Oger told the Straight in a phone interview.

      To recall, a November 17 on-campus event was supposed to include a filmmaker who disputes the use of the term “mass graves” to refer to burial sites around former Indian residential schools.

      “Although the university does and will continue to support academic freedom,” UBC said in a November 12 statement, “we have determined that this event should not proceed.”

      It explained, “UBC is committed to truth and meaningful reconciliation as well as the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion.”

      Moreover, “In September 2020, the University was the first in North America to commit to taking a human-rights approach to its Indigenous strategic framework through the launch of its Indigenous Strategic Plan, which outlines the goals and actions the university is collectively taking to support and uphold Indigenous peoples’ human rights.”

      Oger argued that there are elements in the university’s policy around Indigenous issues that apply as well to other marginalized communities.

      What’s unclear is if the principle behind this policy now covers “all targeted harassments and all hate propaganda or only to specific propaganda”.

      “I’m very impressed what the university has put in to address oppression and inequality and outstanding claims by First Nations persons of systemic discrimination,” Oger said.

      The activist continued, “I would love to hear if that’s being applied across…all of the prohibited grounds of discrimination, or if that’s only for Indigenous peoples in order to address the wrongs of society that we know have been done to Indigenous peoples in Canada.”

      On Thursday (November 18), Oger released an open letter addressed to UBC chancellor Steven Point and university president Santa Ono.

      In the letter, the activist recalled that the university allowed an event in 2019 that featured a transgender speaker known for making critical comments against the transgender community.

      The letter also makes reference to “hate speech”.

      “Hate speech is not free speech and speakers who are reasonably expected to incite hatred and cause distress through injurious revisionist assertions on grounds that are explicitly prohibited by our human rights laws should not qualify to leverage UBC’s brand or leverage its public funding to broadcast unearned credibility,” Oger wrote.

      The advocate continued, “UBC has a responsibility of addressing such attempts. It also has an explicit responsibility of doing so consistently and without discrimination as dictated by section 15 of the Canadian Charter of right and Freedoms (the Charter) which guarantees equality.”

      Oger made the letter public in the leadup to the November 20 observance of Trans Day of Remembrance.

      In the interview with the Straight, Oger argued that all communities facing discrimination should not be subject to "disinformation".

      Oger wondered if the university will apply the same test and same standards it cited to cancel the November 17 event to “transphobic speech, to anti-Semitic speech, to white supremacist speech or to any speech that’s justifying discrimination”.

      “Or have they only done this for First Nations people today, and do we need to do advocacy work for them to do this for other communities as well?” Oger asked.

      As of this post, Oger has yet to hear from UBC.