OTTAWA, ONTARIO – The Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) and the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD) celebrate the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Hansman v. Neufeld. At a time when 2SLGBTQI+ people and communities are facing increased violence and hate, this decision reinforces the right to speak out against public discourse harmful to the dignity, equality, and safety of marginalized communities. We are also pleased to see the Court defend teachers’ rights to criticize the discourse used by school board trustees.
The Supreme Court of Canada case concerned British Columbia’s Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA) established in 2019 to prevent people in positions of power from misusing the legal system to silence their critics through strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP) lawsuits. In October 2022, CBRC and CCGSD intervened in this case based on our shared mandate to support the health and wellbeing of 2SLGBTQI+ people and communities, and our belief that counter-speech against hate towards queer, trans, and Two-Spirit must be protected.
2SLGBTQI+ people have faced mounting attacks in public discourse which have corresponded to a rise in reported hate crimes. According to Statistics Canada, 2021 saw a historic high of 423 hate crimes targeting sexual orientation, a 64% increase since 2019. This concerning rise in anti-2SLGBTQI+ hate statistics adds to an already substantial body of research and evidence that points to the unique challenges of stigma, discrimination, and prejudice faced by our communities, and especially trans people.
We are pleased that the Court’s decision included careful consideration of this social context, as it speaks to the harm experienced by 2SLGBTQI+ people when hateful rhetoric about queer, trans, and Two-Spirit people goes unchallenged. Additionally, school board meetings and elections across Canada have played host to extremely harmful discourse about 2SLGBTQI+ people. We are hopeful Hansman v Neufeld will create space for teachers to criticize and challenge trustees whose views may harm vulnerable students.
The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision contains several positive results for the 2SLGBTQI+ community, and trans people in particular. The decision takes care to define transgender, gender identity, gender expression, and gender dysphoria. The Court further reinforced that section 15 Charter equality values are engaged by counter speech defending vulnerable or marginalized groups. Finally, the Court also found that individuals speaking out against hateful speech like Mr. Hansman can be entitled to rely on the fair comment defense to defamation.
This case was the first time that CCGSD and CBRC have appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as the first instance of formally engaging in legal advocacy. Thanks are due to our legal counsel Dustin Klaudt, Tristan Miller, and Grace McDonell as well as our agents BLG Ottawa. We also wanted to commend and thank Mr. Hansman and the BC Teachers’ Federation for their courage in advancing this appeal.
“At a moment where violence and hate directed towards trans and queer people is at an all-time high in North America, we celebrate the Court’s decision. A central CCGSD aim is empowering queer communities, including the trans community, through education and programming like BC’s SOGI 123. The Court’s decision reassures people who speak out against transphobia and other harmful speech, including educators advocating for inclusive curricula, against the threat of unwanted SLAPP litigation.”
Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, Executive Director, CCGSD
“The Hansman decision is an important legal win for the 2SLGBTQI+ community, and a timely one as hate and misinformation towards trans people reaches unprecedented levels. By formally recognizing the historic and ongoing social disadvantages faced by trans and other 2SLGBTQI+ people, this Supreme Court decision sends a powerful message that standing up to homophobic and transphobic rhetoric – as Mr. Hansman and the BC Teachers Federation have done – is squarely in the public interest.”
Michael Kwag, Executive Director, CBRC
“The Supreme Court of Canada has taken significant steps in recognizing the important equality-affirming value of protective speech standing up against transphobic and homophobic speech. The Court further recognized the persisting marginalization of trans and queer individuals and their continued exposure to disadvantage, prejudice, stereotyping, and vulnerability, at a pivotal time when the trans and queer community are facing a rapid increase in hate, harassment, and threats of violence across Canada.”
Dustin Klaudt, Co-counsel for CBRC and CCGSD
Community-Based Research Centre promotes the health of people of diverse sexualities and genders through research and intervention development. CBRC’s core pillars community-led research, knowledge exchange, network building, and leadership development position the organization as a thought leader, transforming ideas into actions that make a difference in our communities. CBRC was incorporated in 1999 and is a non-profit charitable organization. Our main office is located in Vancouver, British Columbia; we also have satellite offices located in Edmonton, Toronto, and Halifax. Learn more about CBRC at www.cbrc.net.
The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD) is a national organization dedicated to building a future without discrimination for 2SLGBTQI+ youth. The CCGSD’s mission is to empower gender and sexually diverse communities through education, research, and advocacy. Guided by the goals of the communities in which we work, we undertake our mission with both empathy and compassion since it is what the communities we serve deserve.
Since 2005, CCGSD has been working towards this mission primarily through education. Each year, we reach tens of thousands of Canadian youth in schools through workshops in their classrooms. Our youth outreach and engagement projects reach thousands more youth either virtually or through partnerships with locally-focused community organizations. Learn more about the CCGSD at ccgsd-ccdgs.org.
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