McGill speaker's talk cancelled after trans activists protest
More than 100 people took part in a protest on Tuesday criticizing McGill University for hosting Robert Wintemute, a lawyer for a U.K. gay, lesbian and bisexual advocacy group many have criticized for being anti-trans.
The event inside a Faculty of Law building was cancelled partway through after protesters entered the venue and threw baking flour at Wintemute. They also unplugged a projector he used for the event, which was titled "Sex v. Gender (Identity) Debate In the United Kingdom and the Divorce of LGB from T."
Protest organizer and trans activist Celeste Trianon said the protest aimed to denounce Wintemute and the LGB Alliance and the university's Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP) for allowing the event to take place.
"The LGB Alliance is a hate group founded in the United Kingdom with a specific intent of being transphobic," said Trianon. "They really are, first and foremost, a transphobic hate group whose sole intent is to roll back trans rights under the guise of being 'gay friendly.'"
Wintemute is a professor of Human Rights Law at King's College London in the U.K. He earned his common law and Quebec civil law degrees at McGill.
After his seminar was cancelled, Wintemute told CTV News that he acknowledged that his views are controversial, but he denied his group promotes hate and said that Canadian universities should be "shocked" by Tuesday's protest.
"It's extremely anti-democratic to interfere with a seminar at a university just because you disagree with the opinions expressed," he said.
Trianon wrote in an open letter that the group said opposing same-sex marriage is not homophobic and that conversion therapy should not be criminalized.
"These are all claims that the LGB Alliance has put forward and speaks very clearly as to their intent," said Trianon.
Trianon objects to McGill giving the Alliance a voice even if McGill does not endorse its views.
"You're still giving the LGB Alliance, this terribly transphobic hate group that operates worldwide, a platform," she said.
The LGB Alliance's "vision" on its site is to ensure "lesbians, gay men and bisexuals living free from discrimination or disadvantage based on their sexual orientation," and its mission is "to advance lesbian, gay and bisexual rights."
Alliance co-founder Allison Bailey sued the LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall after arguing she was offered lower quality work for opposing Stonewall's diversity champion scheme, which provides advice and assessments for inclusive workplaces.
Wintemute argued that concerns from the transgender community have dominated the debate over LGBT issues and it is averse to disagreements.
He says the group is against all forms of anti-trans violence and discrimination against transgender people. His group advocates on behalf of the "many women who are concerned about the presence of male-to-female persons in women-only spaces, which would include changing rooms, prisons, hospital wards, etc." and about "such persons in women's sports," he said.
Hopes that events platforming "unpopular" opinions can be held in the future. "We're supposed to be a democracy with freedom of expression."
The CHRLP said on the event page that it "does not endorse the views of the Alliance or of any speaker" and that it is "committed to a respectful and inclusive space for debate."
"Every year, the CHRLP organizes a range of events on a variety of human rights issues. These events serve as a platform for critical conversations on topics that can productively and robustly be discussed in an academic setting," McGill said in response to the protest by email.
"They are not an endorsement of any speaker’s views, and the Centre will ensure there is enough time for responses and discussion. McGill recognizes and supports the rights of its students to peaceful protest on campus."
McGill Faculty of Law Dean Robert Leckey sent an email to students about the talk.
"An academic institution doesn't endorse all views held by each speaker it hosts," the email reads.
"Board members do not endorse everything said or done by organizations they help to govern. Relatedly, advocates do not endorse everything said or done by the clients they defend vigorously. I believe firmly that, over the long term, preserving this separation is important, including for members of our LGBTQ+ communities."
CTV has asked whether or not the event will be rescheduled but has not heard back.
With files from CTV's Joe Lofaro