Gender identity talk cancelled at SFU campus due to "security reasons"

Nov 1 2019, 3:41 pm

A speaking panel featuring controversial anti-trans “feminist” speaker Meghan Murphy set to take place at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre has been cancelled due to “security reasons” and will be moving to a different location as a result.

“How media bias shapes the gender identity debate” is scheduled for November 2. The event is part of a series of talks hosted by #GIDYVR, a group with which Murphy is involved. 

Meghan Murphy

Event posted for #GIDYVR’s talk featuring Meghan Murphy

“Gender identity ideology and legislation have enormous ramifications for Canadians, and serious consequences for the rights of women and children,” reads the event page.

“However, this is not apparent from mainstream media coverage of the topic. Canadian (and most international) media outlets almost exclusively frame the debate on gender identity ideology and legislation as irrelevant or non-existent, aside from the occasional blowout between progressives and a so-called hateful fringe of women and right-wingers. The truth is not so simple.”

The event was also set to include free speech activist Lindsay Shepherd, journalist Jonathan Kay, and Anna Slatz, a contributor for The Post Millennial.

Murphy, a freelance writer who runs the website “Feminist Current,” has publicly argued that trans women endanger cis women.

Last week, hundreds of demonstrators surrounded the Toronto Public Library’s Palmerston branch to protest an event where Murphy was scheduled to speak.

At her Toronto talk, Murphy claimed she has never said that “‘transwomen are not real women.”

“I have said that trans-identified males are males. Because they are… If you are born male, you remain male for life. Everyone knows this. It is not a belief or an opinion, it is a fact,” she said.

“This trans activist movement — this gender identity ideology — is nothing if not an absolutely regressive, irrational, anti-woman movement that appears to have become incredibly authoritarian, as no one is allowed to question, challenge, or disagree,” she said.

“And those who do, like myself, are threatened with just about every social and physical punishment imaginable — jail, social ostracization, loss of income, violence, even death.”

Security issues at SFU talk

In a tweet sent on Thursday, SFU said it was the talk’s sponsor — professor Mark Collard — who “decided to cancel the event for security reasons.”

In a statement sent to Daily Hive, SFU said as part of the school’s usual process, it “provided a security briefing for the event sponsor prior to the event” but did not elaborate on any security concerns.

Speaking to Daily Hive, Collard said he believed planning was “going really smoothly until yesterday morning.”

“I went to the Harbour Centre to do the final walkthrough and … the director of our public safety on campus informed me that they had credible threats being made of direct action on the night of the event at the Harbour Centre. Including, you know, in-person disruption [of the event] and pulling of fire alarms and also property damage being planned,” he said.

“And that … changed the calculation in terms of thinking about the safety of not just the participants but the audience and all the people in the building.”

While he agrees “people have the right to protest,” Collard says in this case “people were crossing a line into direct action.”

“That is unconscionable in a liberal democracy for people to threaten direct action against other people for having views that they disagree with.”

In September, SFU’s Vice President, Academic, and Provost Dr. Jonathan Driver released a statement regarding Murphy’s upcoming panel, stating the school supports “the right of faculty and other SFU community members to engage in free speech within limits of the law.”

“While we value free expression, this does not imply that we endorse the views expressed. On the contrary, it is understood that all ideas, beliefs and opinions are subject to analysis and criticism that may result in their modification or rejection,” wrote Driver.

SFU LGBTQ+ community speaks out against event

SFU’s LGBTQ+ community has been speaking out about Murphy’s panel for several weeks, including student Sabia Hurley, who wrote an open letter last month responding to Driver’s statement regarding the event.

“The implications of SFU an academic institution renowned for its progressive history – hosting this blatantly one-sided, transphobic event are dangerous, insulting, and regressive for the LGBTQIA2S community at SFU and across the province,” wrote Hurley.

“When SFU agrees to host a panel of individuals who openly plan to trivialize the existence of transgender identities – which are clearly recognized by federal and provincial law – SFU legitimizes the views of the panel participants and sends a message to its greater community that transphobic conduct is acceptable.”

Hurley spoke to Daily Hive after the school announced the event was cancelled from Harbour Centre.

“I wish SFU could have recognized in the first place that this event infringes on the human rights of transgender and queer students, faculty, and community members,” they said.

“But … it’s great to have it cancelled and that’s the result of direct action from the trans community. Not the result of SFU being willing to protect those folks.”

“I not really sure what’s going to happen. I have a feeling that they will pressure SFU into letting the event go on or they will find another venue so we’re just waiting to hear so that we can scramble organize and show up wherever it does happen.”

This afternoon, #GIDYVR confirmed it had secured a new venue and would announce it “shortly before the event tomorrow.”

“Please look for an email from #GIDYVR tomorrow afternoon,” stated the group.

“The new venue is also in downtown Vancouver. Looking forward to seeing you all there!”

On Facebook, Murphy said the new location is “bigger and better than ever.”

“Blessing in disguise, y’all,” she wrote. “We are so excited to see you all tomorrow night.”