Oak Bay council sought in-camera legal advice at Monday’s meeting to consider cancelling the Thursday night booking of an anti-SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) event at Oak Bay’s Windsor Pavilion.
Based on the legal opinion, council concluded they will not cancel the booking, as they are without the legal grounds to do so, said Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch.
“We recognize it as controversial but have no legal reason to cancel it,” Murdoch said. “It’s voluntary attendance. The decision is looking at this by the rules, do we have the right to cancel it? No.”
The event, called The Erosion of Freedom, is openly against SOGI 123, a guide accepted in all of B.C.’s school districts to assist in helping educators build inclusive environments for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
The speaker, Jenn Smith, identifies as transgender but believes the SOGI 123 program includes anti-Christian values. Smith fought against Chilliwack school district’s inclusion of SOGI 123 last year.
Anti-SOGI activist Jenn Smith (who self-identifies as trans, is male, uses male pronoun and who doesn't live in Chilliwack) tried to hijack the #Chilliwack school board meeting tonight during question period. New board chair @dacoulter shut him down. #sogi123 pic.twitter.com/Es7caDLaQV— Paul J. Henderson (@PeeJayAitch) December 12, 2018
The anti-SOGI presentation remains controversial among members and allies of the LGBTQ community, Oak Bay council, and trustees of the Greater Victoria School District.
Murdoch has organized one of two protest events that are taking place at the same time as Smith’s talk, with his starting around 6:30 p.m. at Willows Park. It’s called the Mayor’s Gathering for Inclusion and Hope. School District trustee Ryan Painter organized the other event, which was originally to be held outside Windsor Pavilion but is to be at Queen’s Park at 6 p.m.
Painter’s event will feature several speakers telling their stories.
“The right to self expression is a key feature to democracy, as long as the debate is open and respectable,” Murdoch said. “Personally, I recognize this will be seen by people who are vulnerable and they might feel more unwelcome, which is why I want to have the community event. People are welcome to come to Willows to share their support for inclusion.”