Human Rights Tribunal orders Christian activist to pay Morgane Oger $55,000
The B.C. Human Rights tribunal has declared that a Christian activist must pay $55,000 to a prominent Vancouver trans activist and former provincial NDP candidate.
In a March 27 decision written by tribunal panel member Devyn Cousineau—and concurred in by tribunal chair Diana Juricevic and panel member Norman Trerise—Saskatchewan resident William Whatcott was ordered to pay $35,000 to Morgane Oger "as compensation for injury to her dignity, feelings, and self‐respect" after he distributed 1,500 flyers designed to foil Oger's election bid as the NDP candidate for Vancouver-False Creek in the 2017 provincial election.
The panel found that Whatcott violated Section 7 (Discriminatory Publication) of the B.C. Human Rights Code. That section says, in part, that:
A person must not publish, issue or display, or cause to be published, issued or displayed, any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that
(a) indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or a group or class of persons, or
(b) is likely to expose a person or a group or class of persons to hatred or contempt
because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age of that person or that group or class of persons.
Oger, who identifies as a trans woman and is vice president of the B.C. NDP, lost the election by about 400 votes. She filed the complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal soon after.
In the decision's introduction, Cousineau wrote: "Mr. Whatcott created a flyer entitled 'Transgenderism vs. Truth in Vancouver‐False Creek'....In it, he called Ms. Oger a 'biological male who has renamed himself…after he embraced a transvestite lifestyle'. He expressed a 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'. He described being transgender as an 'impossibility', which exposes people to harm and constitutes a sin. Mr. Whatcott ended the Flyer with a call to action: do not vote for Ms. Oger or the NDP."
Cousineau also wrote of the flyer distributed by Whatcott: "Under the title, there are two photographs: one of Ms. Oger, and the other of Walt Heyer. Mr. Heyer is described as a man who 'lived as a transvestite for eight years, cut off his penis, and injected himself with female hormones, in an effort to delude himself and everyone around him into thinking he was a female'. Ms. Oger is identified using her former name and described as 'biological male'. The Flyer says that the 'truth' is that Ms. Oger is male, and suggests that anyone who says otherwise, including Ms. Oger, the media, and the NDP are promoting 'falsehoods' ".
The panel also awarded Oger a further $20,000 from Whatcott "as costs for improper conduct" both inside and outside the hearing room under Section 37 (4) of the B.C. Human Rights Code. This section provides that the "member or panel may award costs...against a party to a complaint who has engaged in improper conduct during the course of the complaint".
Cousineau wrote in the decision that part of the $20,000 "punitive" costs award was due to Whatcott's "clear intent" during the hearing (which took place from December 11 to 17, 2018) "to publicly humiliate her [Oger]".