By Jeff Shantz
The University of British Columbia appears to be at it again. Mere months after hosting far-right speaker Ben Shapiro, and agreeing to host far-right figures Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern—an event that was eventually cancelled after community mobilization and outcry—the elite Vancouver university is going ahead with a talk by an anti-trans activist, Jenn Smith, with various ties to far-right groups like the Soldiers of Odin, Proud Boys, and Culture Guard. He event is scheduled for the evening of June 23, 2019. Smith has even used Soldiers of Odin as “bodyguards” at preceding events.
Smith’s talk is directed against the British Columbia educational system’s LGBTQ2-inclusive and supportive program SOGI 123 (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity). Smith, “a 54 year-old transgender identified male” who uses his identity to target the trans communities is slated to speak as well against “transgender ideology” and “transgender politics.” Smith has stated “that men cannot be women (and vice versa), no matter how much they pretty themselves up.” Transphobic, anti-trans politics, have been long connected to contemporary far Right movements and viewpoints.
In response, UBC says it will rely on the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the colonial police force that was recently involved in the racial profiling of a Black graduate student at a major academic congress on UBC’s campus). The RCMP is itself a force of settler colonial domination and white supremacy. Many people are not made to fee safe by its presence. This is in addition to the threat posed by the far Right groups who have accompanied Smith previously. The perspectives being pushed by Smith make communities, schools, and workplaces more dangerous and threatening, especially for transgender students.
As was the case for the Shapiro and Molyneux and Southern events, Smith’s scheduled appearance is being opposed by UBC Students Against Bigotry and other community members. Community outrage managed to get other scheduled Smith talks cancelled at Douglas College in Metro Vancouver and Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia.