New Westminster pastor promotes feminism in an unusual way
By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter
“Mr. Trudeau, in order to be a feminist, you have to believe ‘woman’ means something. Take action against Bill C-16.”
These bold words, proclaimed on numerous posters, were dispersed throughout the Metro Vancouver region. Recently, many LGBTQ+ residents in the West End of downtown Vancouver have found these messages to be an act of hate.
On the poster, the hashtag #killbillc16 is being encouraged to share on social media, with an additional link to a campaign website that explains Bill C-16 as “…[one] that completely undermines and destroys women’s rights, freedoms, protections, and identity under the law.”
Essentially, Bill C-16 is a proposed amendment of the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited discriminations. In addition, the Criminal Code will be amended to protect against hate propaganda and crimes, especially against those who are transitioning or have transitioned.
“Transgender people need to hear that their rights, their human rights, their dignity is protected within our Human Rights Act,” shared QMUNITY executive director C.J. Rowe to Global News.
Paul Dirks, pastor of the New Westminster Community Church, has come under heavy scrutiny after the images of his campaign slogan against Bill C-16 spread across the local region and beyond. According to Dirks, the bill is described as “disastrous.” Dirks argues that this kind of legislation places gender and sex on opposite sides, thus rendering the word “female” useless, and effectively harming women’s rights for the future.
“The bill opens spaces for predators to come in [and take advantage of these laws]. People haven’t thought through this, so we’re raising awareness,” Dirks said to the New Westminster Record.
Dirks pointed out how many cases of violence and assault have been reported, especially in unisex and women’s areas, suggesting that Bill C-16 would open door wider for harm to women.
“At best, his campaign is insensitive to the experience of trans persons. At worst, the campaign, and its associated website, convey thinly veiled fear mongering and transphobia,” explained Kurt Knoblick, Director at Large for New Westminster Pride Society in a letter to the New Westminster Record.
“While claiming to ‘value and respect all people,’ Pastor Dirks does not believe it to be necessary to consider how denying Bill C-16 will affect the daily lives of trans persons and further marginalize their experience,” the letter read. “The language of the bill does not attack the definition of woman nor women’s rights. Advancing the rights and protections of trans persons does not diminish the rights and protections of any other Canadian citizen. The proposed bill is neither anti-women, nor anti-family as his campaign website would suggest.”
Looking to the future, the New Westminster Pride Society hopes to have a conversation with Dirks about his campaign, in search of informing and educating the pastor about the importance of rights for anyone, no matter how they identify or express themselves.
“People who put up these posters are obsessed with myths that are unfounded about supposed dangers that trans women [or men] pose,” said Morgane Oger, chair of the Trans Alliance Society to the New Westminster Record.