British Columbia

UBC barred from Vancouver Pride Parade for hosting controversial speaker

The University of British Columbia is barred from marching in the Vancouver Pride Parade after allowing a controversial figure to speak on campus earlier this summer.

Parade entries are judged on a point system and anti-SOGI activist Jenn Smith’s event tipped the balance

Participants in Vancouver's Pride Parade in 2016. UBC won't be marching this year. (Lien Yeung/CBC)

The University of British Columbia is barred from marching in the Vancouver Pride Parade after allowing a controversial figure to speak on campus earlier this summer. 

Andrea Arnot, executive director of the Vancouver Pride Society, says all entries to the parade have to meet specific requirements — judged on a point system— to be allowed to participate. 

"We reject applications every year," Arnot said, 

"But not usually once they've been accepted and ready to go in the parade, in this instance."   

A committee sits down and looks at things like an organization's policies, support for the LGBT community, and any past events deemed transphobic or homophobic. Each criterion is worth a certain amount of points. 

UBC fell below the required number of points by allowing Jenn Smith, who has been labelled by critics as transphobic, to host an event on campus in June that criticizes B.C.'s sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum (SOGI). 

That event was a "sticking point" when it came to tallying up the points, Arnot said. 

The society announced on Monday that it had rescinded the university's entry because UBC dipped below the required 20 points for the parade.

Jenn Smith, who identifies as a transgender man, has caused controversy across B.C. for recent anti-SOGI events. (Jenn Smith)

"There was significant commentary and requests from the queer and trans community on campus and also other community groups for UBC to cancel the event," Arnot told CBC's On The Coast.

Organizations that are rejected from the parade are told what to work on and improve for next year, she added. 

Freedom of expression debate

UBC declined an interview with CBC News but provost Andrew Szeri said in a written statement that the university is committed to the "principles of equity, diversity, inclusion."

"We are aware that community members (particularly trans and non-binary students, faculty and staff) were personally affected by the June event," Szeri wrote.

"We are committed to ensuring that marginalized voices are heard in discussions of freedom of expression."

Jenn Smith, who identifies as a bisexual trangender male, has been hosting controversial talks across the province in recent months about the impacts of SOGI curriculum. 

His talk at UBC was titled "The Erosion of Freedom: How Transgender Politics in School and Society is Undermining Our Freedom and Harming Women and Children." 

The university explained the decision to allow the event by pointing to a balance between supporting members of the community with the institution's commitment to freedom of expression. 

Arnot argues freedom of expression isn't a valid reason for allowing the anti-SOGI event to go forward.

"We definitely want to send a message to UBC and to other organizations as well," she said. 

"It's probably going to be disappointing for some people and to that I say: we're holding your organization, your university, to be accountable to make changes."  

Parade entries are judged on a point system and anti-SOGI activist Jenn Smith’s tipped the balance 9:43

With files from On The Coast

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