Vancouver’s largest university has been barred from participating in the city’s annual Pride march.
In a statement posted to its website Monday, the Vancouver Pride Society announced that the University of British Columbia will not be permitted to participate as an institution. In the statement, the Pride Society says that the barring is “due to [UBC’s] decision to provide a platform for transphobic hate speech.”
This year’s Pride Parade will take place on Aug. 4.
The barring follows a controversial talk given at UBC on June 23 by anti-trans advocate Jenn Smith entitled “The Erosion of Freedom: How Transgender Politics in School and Society is Undermining Our Freedom and Harming Women & Children.”
While Smith identifies as a transgender man, the talk argued against sexual orientation and gender diversity being taught in schools. Smith also posited that transgender women are men. Events featuring Smith at Trinity Western University and Douglas College were both cancelled earlier this month.
Many students, staff and faculty groups outwardly opposed the talk when it was announced.
“We fear that some students, faculty, and staff at UBC will feel threatened, unsafe, and targeted by his messaging,” the school’s student union, the Alma Mater Society, wrote preceding the talk.
In a letter to the university’s board of governors from president Bronwen Sprout, the UBC Faculty Association argued that the talk should not be permitted under the university’s gender and equity policies.
“Irresponsible, disrespectful and discriminatory speech, including by non-UBC persons who have booked space on campus, harms the core activities of the UBC community,” Sprout wrote.
The university ultimately allowed the event to go forward, citing freedom of expression policy. A counter-rally was held before the event, where speakers criticized the school for allowing other controversial speakers including Ben Shapiro and Megan Murphy to speak on campus.
On July 2, UBC president Santa Ono released a letter acknowledging the controversy around the event.
“I know that the June 23 event raised the question of how the university can balance the crucial principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom with our commitment to equity and inclusion,” Ono wrote. “This is not an easy question, but a very important one.”
We are hopeful that UBC will create changes in policy and practice to support their entire campus community. Until then, UBC will not be able to participate as an institution at our events.The Vancouver Pride Society
Ono noted in his letter that the university’s board of directors will discuss the issue at an upcoming board meeting. However, the Vancouver Pride Society said in their statement that the university will not be permitted to formally participate in events until a new policy is instated.
“We are hopeful that UBC will create changes in policy and practice to support their entire campus community,” the statement reads. “Until then, UBC will not be able to participate as an institution at our events.”
The statement went on to clarify that the organization will still welcome LGBTQAI2S+ UBC students and faculty at the event as individuals.
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