In a statement released today (July 8) the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) offered information as to why it’s rescinding the University of British Columbia's entry into the annual Pride Parade.
In explaining its position, the society said an event held June 23 at the university featuring controversial speaker Jenn Smith, made UBC ineligible to qualify to march in the parade. At the time Smith, who identifies as a bisexual transgender male, was on a speaking tour entitled, “The Erosion of Freedom: How Transgender Politics in School and Society Are Undermining Our Freedom and Harming Women and Children!” The tour was organized in protest of the SOGI initiative in schools, which promotes sexual orientation and gender identity protections and programs.
Groups applying to walk in the parade must answer a series of questions, which help VPS assess their official policies and support of LGBTQAI2S+ employees and community members. By allowing Smith to speak, the society says UBC no longer qualifies to take part. In a statement at the time, UBC’s vice-president academic Andrew Szeri said the event was not booked by the university and it also “prompted UBC community members to express their views on freedom of expression and academic freedom, and ask questions around the university’s commitment to equity and inclusion.”
Today, the VPS released the following statement:
"The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) is rescinding the University of British Columbia's (UBC) entry in the 2019 Pride Parade due to their decision to provide a platform for transphobic hate speech.
VPS is aware that the decision to revoke UBCs ability to participate in the Pride Parade may negatively impact LGBTQAI2S+ students, employees and faculty. To address this, VPS is providing space in the parade for LGBTQAI2S+ UBC students, employees and faculty who wish to march.
Those interested in marching at the Vancouver Pride Parade can sign-up through this link. The Equity & Inclusion Office will be providing background support to centre and facilitate the participation of queer and/or trans community members from UBC.
VPS understands that UBC plans to send Policy 107: Booking and Rental of UBC Space to the Board of Governors to be reviewed in September. We look forward to meeting with representatives from UBC to discuss their revised policy. We encourage UBC to apply for reassessment in 2020 once steps have been taken to address the damage done by their previous policy.
To participate in the Pride Parade, each parade applicant must answer a series of questions which help VPS assess their official policies and support of LGBTQAI2S+ employees and community members. All applications are reviewed and graded against a matrix by VPS's Parade Working Group, made up of community members.
The matrix includes a category examining any recent homophobic or transphobic events and the institutional response. Applicants must receive a matrix score higher than 20 to participate in the Pride Parade.
UBCs booking policy and decision to allow and defend a platform for anti-transgender hate speech has dropped their score below the required score of 20 to participate in the Pride Parade.
Meeting and Moving Forward
Representatives from VPS and UBC Administration met on July 3, 2019 to discuss the June 23 event and UBCs plans to move forward. UBC began by letting us know they were concerned about the potential impact on students and faculty who may be denied the opportunity to partake in Pride.
We have encouraged UBC to revise the policy after consultation both with LGBTQAI2S+ communities on campus and a professional agency. We have also suggested that UBC make a statement which takes responsibility for any harm done to the campus community and outlines a way forward.
We are hopeful that UBC will create changes in policy and practice to support their entire campus community. Until then, UBC will not be able to participate as an institution at our events. We welcome LGBTQAI2S+ UBC students and faculty to our events.
We are making this decision transparent to hold UBC accountable."