UBC barred from marching in Vancouver Pride Parade

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The Vancouver Pride Society is barring UBC from officially marching in August’s Pride Parade because the university hosted a controversial anti-SOGI speaker last month.

UBC clubs and associations will also not be able to officially walk in the pride parade either, but they will be allowed to walk with other groups or as individuals. The Vancouver Pride Society says UBC has not met the society’s criteria for participation.

RELATED: Thousands of UBC staff call for cancellation of anti-SOGI event

The invite was rescinded over the university’s decision to allow controversial speaker Jenn Smith to present on campus last month. VPS executive director Andrea Arnot says UBC’s approval of a room for Smith’s anti-SOGI event amounted to providing “a platform for transphobic hate speech.”

SOGI 123 is an LGBTQ-inclusive education resource used in B.C. schools.

“They have the freedom of speech as part of their policies. We understand that a university needs to invite dialogue, and difference of opinions, but when it is hate speech that is directly counter to our laws in Canada, then that’s a problem,” she says.

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She says there has been feedback from the trans community that allowing speakers like Smith to host are allowing discrimination to happen.

“It’s part of our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that gender identity and gender expression is protected grounds against discrimination, and we want institutions and organizations to be setting an example and not allowing these types of speakers a platform for their hate speech,” she says.

UBC declined an interview, but issued a written statement saying it is “deeply committed to the principles of equity, diversity, inclusion.”

“We are aware that community members (particularly trans and non-binary students, faculty and staff) were personally affected by the June event. UBC remains committed to finding more ways to maintain a respectful environment for everyone in our community,” the statement reads. “We will create mechanisms to seek-out and elevate the perspectives of our community members. We are committed to ensuring that marginalized voices are heard in discussions of freedom of expression and that their feedback is shared at both the Board and Senate levels.”

The university may be allowed back in the parade if it reviews its policies about speakers and room bookings. Arnot said VPS has spoken with the university and it will be reviewing its policy in the fall.

“After they’ve done the review of their policy in the fall and we’ve said if you consult your queer and trans community on campus and get feedback and then look at the policies, if they’re willing to make some changes, we’re happy to invite them back next year,” Arnot said.

In a press release, the society acknowledges that removing the university’s ability to participate might have a negative impact on LGBTQAI2S+ students, employees and faculty on campus, and those who wanted to march, so it’s offering space for them to march independently.

RELATED: Protests expected Sunday as event by controversial anti-SOGI speaker at UBC goes ahead

The society uses a scoring system when it decides whether to allow groups to participate in the parade, and it says the university’s booking policy and “decision to allow and defend a platform for anti-transgender hate speech” dropped the school’s score. Find more on the application process here.

Last year, the Vancouver Pride Society decided not to allow Vancouver police in the parade if they were in uniform and has previously barred political parties who did not sign on to a pro-trans rights pledge.

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