Anti-SOGI speaker Jenn Smith arrives Wednesday evening at the Beban Park social centre, where people were protesting his event. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Protesters try to make anti-SOGI 123 speaker unwelcome in Nanaimo

Jenn Smith spoke Wednesday at the Beban Park social centre

Nanaimo showed that it rejects criticism of “transgender ideology.”

A protest was held Wednesday outside the Beban Park social centre, where a talk by SOGI 123 critic Jenn Smith was taking place.

Smith, who is transgender and uses male pronouns, has been touring Vancouver Island speaking about “transgender ideology” and “how transgender politics in school and society is undermining our freedom and harming women and children.” He has opposed school districts adopting SOGI 123, which shares teaching resources, policies and procedures meant to make schools inclusive and safer for youths of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Alessandro Iachelli, president of the Nanaimo Pride Society, said his board was urged to take a stance opposing Smith’s event in Nanaimo.

“I think his speeches are thinly veiled as a disagreement against SOGI, but they have expressed anti-transgender comments,” Iachelli said. “We respect everybody’s right to have an opinion and that’s free speech, but when it’s attacking anybody else that’s not free speech.”

Iachelli said he wrote to the City of Nanaimo’s mayor and council and parks and rec management regarding Smith’s talk.

“The mayor and council told me that they did not agree with the event, they could not really stop the event due to charter of rights,” Iachelli said.

A City of Nanaimo social media post today noted that “the city doesn’t endorse this event as we believe in a community that is inclusive and full of opportunities for all. However, the city is mindful of requirements under Sec. 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protects ‘freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.’”

RELATED: Anti-SOGI 123 speech in Oak Bay won’t be cancelled

About 35 people were in the auditorium for Smith’s talk, though at least half a dozen in attendance had come in after protesting outside.

“I think in the end, it all kind of worked out, because as you see, there’s many people outside, more people than there are inside,” Iachelli said. “I think Nanaimo’s come a very long way in evolving as a city and for myself, I’m really grateful to see all these people. And if you see the crowd, it’s people from various demographics. We have straight, gay, lesbian, transgender people, families, we have councillors here, we have allies. To me, that’s Nanaimo.”



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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