College says event was registered through an external booking
By Bex Peterson, Editor-in-Chief
Last month, anti-SOGI activist Jenn Smith was set to host a talk at Douglas College’s New Westminster campus. The talk, titled “The Erosion of Freedom,” was meant to describe how “transgender politics in school and society is undermining our freedoms and harming women and children,” according to the event description. The College cancelled the event on June 6, two days before it was slated to occur.
“Douglas College became aware of this event earlier this morning,” said Associate Director of Communications Regan Lal in a June 6 statement. “The description of the event for the booking was not forthcoming about the specific topic. As soon as we became aware of the nature of the booking, the booking was cancelled.”
Jenn Smith identifies as transgender, expressing himself with feminine gender signifiers but using he/him pronouns. Smith’s talks centre on denouncing what he considers “transgender ideology,” with his recent events criticizing the implementation of 2SLGBTQ+-inclusive learning materials in school curriculums through the SOGI 123 program.
Douglas College was one of several schools where Smith planned to host his talks. Trinity Western University likewise cancelled the event once the nature of Smith’s message became clear. UBC, however, hosted Smith at the end of the month, sparking protests among students, faculty, and members of the community.
“His appearance on campus, I can’t experience it as anything other than a betrayal, particularly given the university’s stated emphasis on and valuing of principles of diversity and inclusion,” said UBC research and writing lecturer Mary Ann Saunders, in a statement to Star Vancouver. “It doesn’t seem as though the university actually values the most vulnerable students and faculty and staff.”
In a blog statement on the matter, Smith expressed his disappointment in Douglas College’s decision, referring to himself as a former student of the school and calling the College’s move a “complete collapse of freedom of speech.”
Local activist and a founding member of BC Families for Inclusivity, Brad Dirks, has been outspoken against Smith’s talks throughout last month. According to the New Westminster Record, Dirks reached out to Douglas College directly as soon as he heard Smith had registered to host an event on campus to voice his concerns. Dirks also helped to organize a rally at UBC during Smith’s talks to express support for 2SLGBTQ+ people.
“Trans rights are not up for debate,” said Dirks in an interview with Star Vancouver during the rally. “The university should stand up for trans people, rather than allow this stuff to take place.”