Hate speech stickers target election signs of transgender candidate in Manitoba riding
Trevor Kirczenow calls on other candidates in Provencher to stand with him against hate speech
Stickers promoting transphobia have been plastered across the signs of a federal Liberal Party candidate in Manitoba, who says he was initially disturbed but is now buoyed by messages of support.
"It's really disconcerting, especially the fact that it was obviously planned. It wasn't somebody who took a marker and scrawled something across the signs," said Trevor Kirczenow, who is running in the Provencher riding in southeastern Manitoba.
"Someone spent money on this and had stickers printed out to put across my signs. That level of organization and planning, that's really alarming to me, as well as the message."
Kirczenow turned to Facebook on Thursday to post a message about the hateful stickers, which say trans people are broken.
"We are not broken. That's our truth. We are strong, we are resilient, we are creative, we're intelligent," the 36-year-old married father of two told CBC News in an interview.
"We're very diverse. We're just as diverse as any other community that you can find."
Since his post went up, Kirczenow said he has been inundated with messages of positivity "to the point where it's difficult to respond to them all. I appreciate that very much."
One of the messages posted on Kirczenow's Facebook page was from someone not in his riding who wishes Kirczenow was their candidate.
"I truly wish that you were running where I live. The actions of those who vandalized your signs speaks volumes about them. Your response to the vandalism speaks volumes about you. Please do not let their hatred and ignorance stop you from shining your light," the post said.
So far, Kirczenow is aware of about 10 signs that had the sticker pasted on them, all in the Steinbach and La Broquerie areas.
As well, virtually every sign his team has put up in the riding — more than 100 — has been stolen or run over since the campaign began, he said.
Kirczenow also ran in the 2019 election but did not experience anything like he has this time.
The discovery of the stickers rattled him when he was preparing to campaign and knock on doors later that evening.
"Just in the back of my mind, there was suddenly this feeling of like, I'm knocking on this door, is this going to be the door of the person who did this? Is this going to be someone who expresses these hateful thoughts towards me?" he said.
Instead he was met with cordial and supportive people, who Kirczenow believes represent the majority of residents in the riding, which has a history of being socially conservative.
The seat has been held by a right-of-centre candidate in all but seven years since 1957, and the current MP is Conservative Ted Falk.
In his Facebook post, Kirczenow called on the other candidates in Provencher to stand with him against hate speech and to ask their supporters to do the same.
"I think the vast majority of our community is inclusive and caring and kind, and the vast majority of constituents here would never, ever do something like what was done to my political signs, even if they disagree with me," he said in the interview with CBC.
In an emailed statement to CBC News, Falk condemned what was done Kirczenow, saying political disagreement is healthy and necessary but there is no place for demeaning personal attacks.
"Elections should be an opportunity for Canadians to debate policy and discuss our ideas and vision for the future of our country," he wrote.
"To resort to vandalism is cowardly and unworthy of our democracy. Whether one agrees or disagrees with a candidate's positions, everyone deserves to be treated with respect."
Kirczenow said the area is becoming more diverse but there are politicians who don't recognize that and continue to promote a traditionalist and outdated way of thinking.
"I think it's problematic that leaders in our community like Ted Falk, when they refuse to attend Pride, when they when they do things like Mr. Falk did, to vote against the ban on conversion therapy, people notice that kind of thing," he said.
"And I think that that does send a message to the community and to their followers."
Falk, who has held the seat since 2013, voted in October 2020 against Bill C-6, which set out to ban conversion therapy.
Such therapy is a practice that aims to change an individual's sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender, which means identifying with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Falk said the bill would prevent someone with unwanted sexual feelings or attractions from seeking help and guidance in dealing with those.
More recently, People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, a former Conservative MP who ran for that party's leadership before founding the PPC in 2018, has railed against what he calls the "radical trans agenda."
He made a campaign stop in Steinbach on Monday, and Kirczenow believes his rhetoric could be inciting people "to feel emboldened and empowered to act out in these ways."
The police are investigating the stickers, which Kirczenow called a hate crime. Anyone with information about them is asked to call Steinbach RCMP at 204-326-4452, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477, or submit a tip online at www.manitobacrimestoppers.com.
In another Facebook post on Friday, Kirczenow wrote that when he first had kids, some people would ask if he was worried it might be hard to explain that they have a transgender parent.
"No, that's never been hard at all. Explaining hate is much more difficult than explaining gender identity," he said.
"At the end of the day, my older child said, 'Well, you don't look broken to me.'"