LGBTQ2 students and their allies at Dalhousie University are raising concerns over the university renting out space for a “leadership summit” that includes a speaker widely known for her homophobic and transphobic views.
The Advance Summit will be held at the Dalhousie Collaborative Health Education Building on Nov. 23 and features Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, a former People’s Party of Canada candidate and Christian talk show host.
The event is described online as a “leadership bootcamp.”
“While these people are present and their existence in these spaces and their views are problematic and hurtful to our community, I think it’s good to remember that it’s not every Canadian and that there’s so many spaces here in Halifax that are incredibly supportive,” said Truelee Love, the president of DalOUT, Dalhousie’s LGBTQ2 society.
Thompson has drawn controversy for her opposition to SOGI 123, a curriculum focused on sexual orientation and gender identity within B.C.’s school system.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) education was brought into public school curriculum by the B.C. government, after gender identity and expression was added to the B.C. Human Rights Code as a prohibited ground for discrimination in July 2016.
During the federal election, Thompson campaigned on cutting funds to LGBTQ2 programs, including Pride parades, as a way to stop financial “giveaways.”
During that same debate held in Red Deer, Alta. this October, she called LGBTQ2 representation in communities — like Pride crosswalks — “unfair”.
“If you’re going to stand and you’re going to have a crosswalk and you’re going to have flags that are flown all over this city, you better be fair to everyone else,” Thompson said.
“Where’s the heterosexual crosswalk?”
Dalhousie renting out space for Thompson
Love is a student at Dalhousie University and says discrimination is a daily reality for many members of the LGBTQ2 community.
She questions why the university is renting out space for a person with anti-LGBTQ2 views like Thompson to speak at the institution.
“Whether or not it is Dalhousie bringing them in, or someone who is just using the space, the fact that that speaker is there is something that LGBTQ2+ students notice,” Love said.
“We still face a lot of discrimination within schools. Trans students in particular have a really hard time.”
Dalhousie University wouldn’t agree to an interview.
In an email statement from a spokesperson, the university says it’s not affiliated with the event, just renting space to organizers.
“Although we do ask the external organization for a brief description of their conference, we do not censor the type of conference,” wrote Janet Bryson, a spokesperson with the university.
Bryson’s email goes on to state events organized within the university community are consistent with academic institution values.
“The university has undertaken a large amount of work to ensure that we are a respectful, diverse and inclusive campus community. Any events that we organize within our community are consistent with those values,” Bryson wrote.
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network, meanwhile, says Dalhousie University can choose to decline an event that includes speakers as concerning as Thompson.
“It’s at the discretion of the organization whether they hold the event or not. Given that it’s entirely discretionary and isn’t a Charter issue, any body renting space is thereby responsible for that decision,” said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
“They aren’t just renting a room, they are endorsing the event.”
Yellow Vests Canada Exposed (YVCE), a collective that tracks and researches far-right activity in Canada, says the LGBTQ2 community has rightful grounds to be concerned with Thompson’s participation in the Dalhousie forum.
“Thompson is actively involved with and actually attended Yellow Vests protests,” YVCE said.
“YVC is extremely homophobic, and their presence or message would certainly, and rightly, cause alarm and concern for the LGBTQ+ community.”
Thompson was contacted by Global News and the event organizers for comment but were not given a response.