*This article has been updated with a statement from Jenn Smith
An event planned by an anti-SOGI activist has been cancelled at Douglas College in New Westminster.
Jenn Smith, a transidentifying man who prefers “he/him” pronouns, has spoken out against the LGBTQ-inclusive policies since their implementation in B.C. schools.
He announced bringing a talk entitled “The Erosion of Freedom” at Douglas College, along with events in Vancouver and at Langley’s Trinity Western College, but the New Westminster school has reportedly since pulled the plug on the event.
“Douglas College became aware of this event earlier this morning. It was an external booking and was not a Douglas College sponsored event. The description of the event for the booking was not forthcoming about the specific topic. As soon as we became aware of the nature of the booking, the booking was cancelled,” college spokesperson Regan Lal said in a statement.
Brad Dirks, a Langley-based founding member of B.C. Families for Inclusivity, said he reached out to Douglas College to express his opposition to the college hosting the event and was informed of the event being cancelled.
Smith is a vocal opponent of the SOGI – sexual orientation, gender identity – learning resources introduced to B.C. schools.
“How transgender politics in school and society is undermining our freedoms and harming women and children,” reads the description of the Douglas College event.
His talks, including a recent event in Victoria, are regularly met with protests by the LGBTQ+ community and its allies.
Hailey Heartless, a sex-work activist who identifies as transgender, said she was less shocked than disappointed that an event was being held in New West.
In particular, she said it was disappointing for the event to be held in a generally progressive city at a publicly funded institution.
“It’s going to affect children; it’s going to hurt children, especially teenagers. They don’t have a choice,” she said, adding that she had been planning on holding a rally outside of the event.
It’s still unclear whether the event will go on at another venue, but Heartless was less firm about rallying against an event at a non-public institution, such as a church.
Dirks, whose son identifies as transgender, said he is no less concerned about Smith’s talk being held at a church than at a school.
“When you think of a church, it might be a private venue, but they are funded by taxpayers, because they don’t pay taxes,” Dirks said.
Heartless said the event raised concerns for her, particularly as she was vocal against the event on social media.
“When trans people – or any minorities raise the alarm about hate – they receive a lot of hate back in return because one of the points of this sort of thing is to normalize it. Anytime you say, ‘Well, no, this isn’t normal; this isn’t OK,’ that really upsets people,” she said.
In a statement to The Record, which he said would also be posted to social media, Smith said the move represents a “complete collapse of freedom of speech.”
“Douglas College completely collapsed to the pressure from LGBTQ activists without so much as a courtesy call to the speaker they were arbitrarily cancelling simply because activists disagree with me and are making false charges about me,” Smith said.
“As somebody that identifies as transgender that has been a part of the LGBTQ community as a bisexual as well, I am embarrassed that a community that relied heavily on freedom of speech to achieve the rights they have now are trampling the rights of others, including a bisexual transgender person such as myself.”