BC Liberals’ gender equity critic under fire for transphobic Twitter activity

A B.C. MLA and the BC Liberals’ critic for gender and equity is under fire for her social media activity that amplified anti-transgender rhetoric.

On Jan. 1, Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifield’s official Twitter account liked a tweet regarding a US Court of Appeals decision that constitutionally enshrined single-sex bathrooms in the United States. The account whose tweet Merrifield liked has numerous posts targeting transgender rights.

A screenshot of a transphobic tweet that was liked by Renee Merrifield

BC Liberal MLA Renee Merrifield liked a tweet with transphobic rhetoric, sparking backlash. (Photo screenshot via Twitter)

Additionally, the shadow minister’s account follows multiple accounts that include the terms “gender distressed young people” and “gender dysphoric young children” in their bios.

Merrifield also quote tweeted a post from Jordan Peterson — a university professor who has been vocal in his refusal to use gender-diverse pronouns.

Transgender people and advocates are taking issue with Merrifield’s online activity, saying she is spreading dangerous misinformation.

‘Concern’ over Merrifield’s actions

Speaking with CityNews, sociology professor at Simon Fraser University, Travers, who is transgender, says it wasn’t ignorance on the part of Merrifield that led to her online actions.

“To see an elected official retweeting really dangerous and damaging anti-trans messaging, it’s really terrifying,” they said. “Somebody who’s an elected official, they have no excuse. This is not ignorance. I believe she’s testing the water.”

Travers says Merrifield’s online activity is a symptom of a growing issue in Canada, pointing to events like the Freedom Convoy that had ties to white supremacy groups.

“I know that many Canadians feel a little bit smug in comparison with the conservative attitudes, the racism, the anti-trans hate campaign in the United States, but we’re certainly not immune in Canada,” they explained.

While there is legislation in place in Canada to protect transgender people, Travers says it’s “terrifying” to see the type of rhetoric Merrifield shared is still prevalent.

“I’m particularly concerned because some of the advances that we’ve made in Canada in the past decade to support trans people of all ages…were very very difficult to accomplish and completely inadequate,” they said.

Merrifield says she’s an ally to the 2SLGTBQ+ community

Despite the backlash to her online activity, Merrifield maintains that she is an advocate for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

In an interview with CityNews, Merrifield – who has since unliked the questionable tweet – says that the outrage that has been directed at her as a result of her online activity is a “personal attack.”

“This is nothing more than someone trying to make something of an issue that it simply is not,” she said in regard to Paddon’s comments.

When asked if she supports the views of Jordan Peterson in regard to the trans community, Merrifield said she does not. She said the tweet she quoted was in regard to “cancel culture,” and did so to open up a conversation.

“I think it’s a very good idea to be an active participant and to be listening, but also to be asking questions and to make sure that we are part of a conversation,” she said.

Merrifield insists that she is an ally who has “good friends” who are transgender and has “regular interactions” with the community.

The BC Liberals have confirmed to CityNews that there will not be any action taken against Merrifield for her online activity.

Regardless, critics and advocates are calling for her job.

Calls grow for Merrifield to be removed

In the wake of Merrifield’s online activity, BC NDP parliamentary secretary on gender equity and diversity, Kelli Paddon, took to Twitter herself, demanding the Liberal MLA be removed from the party.

“It’s really concerning that she would share or support or amplify these discriminatory views. Because it would make it pretty difficult for her to do her job as critic,” Paddon told CityNews.

“I would encourage her to speak with people and really understand how sharing and amplifying these things can hurt our community and our province. But I don’t think the place to do that learning is as critic.”

Paddon isn’t alone in her feelings about Merrifield’s online activity and what it represents.

Dr. Kristopher Wells is a professor at MacEwan University in Edmonton and a Canada Research Chair for the public understanding of sexual and gender minority youth. He says it’s “completely inappropriate” for Merrifield to be involved in the online activity that she was.

“This is the antithesis of particularly our human rights legislation in Canada and I’m sure does not represent the policies or the platform of the BC Liberal party,” he told CityNews. “They cannot be trusted to represent the trans community who are an incredibly marginalized and vulnerable community in Canadian society.”

Wells agrees that Merrifield should be removed from the BC Liberal Party over the tweets, saying her actions were intentional.

“By 2023, people know well how Twitter works, so this doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. “It says that this MLA is not an ally to the 2SLGBT community and in particular the trans community and would make you question what are the beliefs of the BC Liberal party.”

Merrifield’s comments have also upset those in her own riding.

MLA’s actions ‘undermining’ her credibility

Wilbur Turner lives in Merrifield’s riding of Kelowna-Mission. Speaking with CityNews, the Chair of Advocacy Canada says he was shocked when he saw what his MLA appeared to be endorsing.

“She’s not only my MLA, but she has got a pretty significant role in the opposition. She’s someone I would want to look to for support for the 2SLGBTQ+ community,” said Turner.

Given her role as the BC Liberals’ critic of gender equity and inclusion, Turner says Merrifield’s actions have him questioning her credibility.

“It really is a demonstration of where her thinking is. Public figures need to be careful of who they associate with and the kind of support they throw to other public figures because it does reflect back on them,” he said.

Turner says Merrifield often calls herself an ally of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, participating in Pride parades and hanging a rainbow flag in her office.

“Regardless of what she says in support of the community publicly, when she does something like this, it completely undermines all of that,” he said.

Turner says that he would like to speak with Merrifield about her online activity with the hopes of educating her.

“I’d like her to hear some stories firsthand by people who are actually impacted by this in a negative way,” he said.

Anti-trans ideologies on the rise

The advocates CityNews spoke with say Merrifield’s actions on Twitter are indicative of a larger, growing problem in Canada.

Wells points out that there has been an increase of instances of violence against the transgender community in Canada over the past few years, saying hateful rhetoric is making its way from the United States.

“Almost every day now we’re seeing protests against drag queens and drag queen story times,” he said.

“Trans rights are human rights. Full stop. There is no debate required,” Wells continued.

“The only message that should be shared is one of affirmation and support for an incredibly vulnerable community, particularly our young people, who still don’t see themselves adequately represented in their schools and in their communities.”

Travers echoes that sentiment, saying there is support for those who need it.

“One thing that I think is really clear is that trans kids are not in this fight alone. There are so many of us that are not going to let bad things happen to them and will continue to work for greater and greater inclusion.”

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