British Columbia

B.C. event featuring Meghan Murphy relocated after security concern

The organizer of a panel discussion on gender and sexuality says the location of the Vancouver event has been changed over possible security risks because of the views of featured speaker Meghan Murphy who drew protests at a Toronto public library earlier this week.

She argues that allowing men 'to identify as women' undermines women's rights

Meghan Murphy, who drew protests at a Toronto public library this week over her views about transgender women, is a featured speaker at a Simon Fraser University event that had to be relocated. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The organizer of a panel discussion on gender and sexuality says the location of the event in Vancouver has been changed over possible security risks because of the views of a featured speaker who drew protests at a Toronto public library this week.

Prof. Mark Collard of Simon Fraser University (SFU) said the senior director of campus security assessed a high safety concern for the event that was set to take place on Saturday.

Collard, who teaches human evolutionary studies, said he's been planning the event that includes Meghan Murphy since the spring, and ticket holders will be emailed a few hours before Saturday's talk with details of the new location.

Collard said the security director, Tim Marron, assessed the security risk as "11 out of 10" and suggested violence could be used by a group called the Coalition Against Trans Antagonism, which is not affiliated with the university, but Out on Campus, which supports LGBTQ students, was not considered a threat.

Marron said he couldn't discuss any security issues, and a spokesperson for the university said no one was available to speak about the issue.

Murphy, a freelance writer, has said the acceptance of trans rights threaten women's rights and that people who are born male remain male for life so they can't understand women's experiences.

Protests planned

Tami Starlight with the Coalition Against Trans Antagonism said members of the group had planned to chant loudly and will be showing up "in force" at the new location, wherever it will be, to do the same.

Starlight said coalition members met with Out on Campus, which Starlight criticized for planning a separate rally instead of aligning with the coalition.

Ashley Brooks, who speaks for Out on Campus, said the group intended to protest peacefully and uphold the university's code of conduct without engaging in any crimes.

"It's in my job interest to keep students thriving here," Brooks said, adding the group decided not to collaborate with the coalition because its members had different goals and do not advocate for direct action that could include disrupting the event.

He has decided not to attend any protest at the new venue "from a safety perspective."

'We need to have a public discussion'

Collard said he didn't want to take any chances when he heard about safety risks that led to the change in venue.

"That was a big problem to hear," he said, adding he was concerned about potential disruptions for people who would be gathering in a nearby meeting room at the university's campus as well as members of the public who could be in the building.

"I decided I just couldn't in good conscience expose people to that level of risk. Given that the security team is telling me that there is a very, very high probably of being some sort of violence that … I decided it would be irresponsible for me to continue."

Collard, who attended Murphy's talk earlier this year at the Vancouver Public Library as protesters gathered outside, said he understands her views are controversial but she has a right to express them in a society that values free speech.

"I don't agree with everything she says but I think she has a right to say them. But actually some of these issues that she talks about are incredibly important, and we need to have a public discussion about them. We can't just allow one side of the debate to win by suppressing the other."

Murphy completed a master's degree at SFU's department of gender, sexuality and women's studies in 2012.

In a statement, she wrote that the university did not cancel the event.

"Our sponsor for the room booking pulled out last minute, leaving us without enough time to push SFU to keep the booking, from a legal standpoint, and we were forced to seek out another venue," she wrote.

"It is unacceptable to allow those who resort to bullying and violent threats to control discourse. This is an important conversation that many across Canada want to have. We will not back down, we will not be silenced and we will not be cancelled."

The panel will also feature Quillette editor Jon Kay, writer Anna Slatz and Lindsay Shepherd, who rose to prominence as a Wilfrid Laurier University teaching assistant who ran afoul of faculty for showing clips of professor Jordan Peterson's TV appearances to students.

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