A series of anti-LGBTQ2S+ leaflets distributed in Whitehorse has triggered an RCMP investigation and public condemnation from the NDP.
“Those who contacted police raised concerns about the language and information in the documents related to the LGBTQ2S+ community,” RCMP Cst. Carlie McCann said in an email to the News.
Investigators confirmed there are four files on this matter, McCann said. Police did not detail the circumstances surrounding the complaints.
An NDP spokesperson and cabinet communications for the territorial government each confirmed the respective parties reported the leaflets to police.
NDP Leader Kate White wrote a letter addressed to Bill Whatcott, the name listed at the end of the leaflets and attributed to a blog that documents the leafletter’s trip to Whitehorse.
“Free speech is not hate speech. When you say the hateful things you say about queer and trans people, what you’re doing is a hate crime,” White said in the letter.
“Hate doesn’t belong here, it actually doesn’t belong anywhere.”
The leaflets specifically criticize Bill 304, a motion put forward in the Yukon legislature by NDP MLA Emily Tredger, who is named in the leaflet, during the 2022 spring sitting.
Premier Sandy Silver of the Yukon Liberal Party is also called out by name in the leaflet, alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Last month, Yukon legislators from all three Yukon parties voted in favour of passing the opposition-led bill to make it mandatory for territorial schools to have safe spaces in the form of activities and organizations dedicated to LGBTQ2S+ students.
The law does not require students to participate in said activities and organizations.
“Government-mandated homosexual clubs in your schools are not in your child’s best interest,” reads the leaflet, which includes a graphic image and is entitled “God is not pleased with homosexual activism in Yukon schools.”
“All sin – including those sins of homosexuality and transvestitism being protected and promoted by the Yukon and Canadian governments – lead to death.”
A coinciding blog includes links to videos that appear to show a one-man demonstration outside the Yukon legislature.
The leaflet-driven complaints reported to police immediately prompted an investigation, McCann said in the email, as police take these complaints “very seriously.”
“Police will be required to balance Mr. Whatcott’s right to freedom of speech with the rights that all Yukoners have related to their sense of safety and security, and their right to not be targeted related to their families, relationships or membership in the LGBTQ2S+ community,” reads McCann’s email.
Police said the investigation is ongoing.
When reached by phone on May 17, Whatcott, who is not from the Yukon and made the trip up north earlier this month, said he had not heard from police with regards to the investigation.
“The flyer is fairly self-explanatory,” Whatcott said. He acknowledged that he had received White’s letter.
“Everything they don’t like is hate speech. I don’t find anything hateful. Like how do you define hateful? And what is hateful? There is no call to violence.”
Whatcott’s decades-long anti-LGBTQ2S+ tirade has been challenged by provincial tribunals and tested by Canada’s top court.
The Supreme Court of Canada weighed in on the issue of flyers published and distributed by Whatcott in Saskatchewan in 2001 and 2002 that allegedly promoted hatred against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation.
In a 6-0 decision, Supreme Court justices upheld Canada’s provisions against hate speech.
“Passages of these flyers combine many of the hallmarks of hatred identified in the case law,” reads the 2013 decision delivered by Justice Marshall Rothstein about two flyers in Saskatchewan.
In 2018, Whatcott was arrested in Calgary after being charged by Toronto Police Service with wilful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group, namely the gay community, for allegedly distributing anti-gay material at the Toronto Pride Parade in 2016. The matter was transferred to Ontario Superior Court of Justice to be tried at that court in January 2019.
“What I don’t understand – and I’m sure I’m not the only one – is how someone who says that they are doing the Lord’s work can be so hateful?” White asks in her letter to Whatcott.
White’s letter cites changes to laws that protect gender identity under human rights legislation.
“You don’t need surgery to be able to change the gender identification of your driver’s license, and in 2020, with the help of Gender and Sexuality Alliances, we even banned conversion therapy,” the letter says about the widely discredited practice of trying to alter someone’s sexual orientation and gender identification through counselling.
White’s letter argues Bill 304 makes important changes to the Education Act.
“Kids need to be protected from people like you; people who view the queer and trans community as something that needs to be fixed,” reads the letter.
An email from cabinet communications in response to the leaflets said the government “does not condone the spreading of offensive material of any kind.”
“The Yukon Liberal government is committed to making the territory a safe, equitable and inclusive place, and we will continue to prioritize the well-being of LGBTQ2S+ Yukoners,” reads the email.
In an email, a Yukon Party spokesperson said the party expects the RCMP will conduct a thorough investigation.
“We condemn any speech that promotes hate or violence.”
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com