We are dismayed to learn that you are publicly supporting the candidacy of Morgane Oger for nomination to become the NDP candidate for Vancouver-Centre. In 2018, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh reiterated the party’s long-standing commitment to addressing the social, political and economic impact of women’s subordination, stating that
“As long as Indigenous women are overrepresented in prisons, as long as older women are trapped in poverty, as long as all women are paid less than men at work, as long as women face gender violence – and as long as women still have to fear having their rights taken away – we won’t stop pressing for true gender equality.”
You have expanded upon the issues relating to women’s inequality in a statement on women’s rights on your website.
It is not possible to reconcile your views or Mr. Singh’s statement of commitment to women’s rights with your support of Morgane Oger who has, for years, engaged in a continuous and public attack on women’s rights, on women’s organizations, on public institutions that facilitate public discussion of women’s rights and on individual women identified as feminist journalists, public speakers and advocates.
On both Twitter and Facebook, on public accounts, Oger has engaged in a prolonged attack on Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, one of Canada’s oldest and most respected women’s shelter, providing crisis line services to all who require them, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. VRRWS serves nearly 1,200 women a year – rape and sexual assault victims, women abused in the sex trade, women who have fled violent men with their children, poor, working class and disadvantaged women trying to rebuild their lives away from abusive men, women of all races and ethnicities.
VRRWS is also the only women’s shelter in Vancouver that offers women-only services, recognizing that women victims of male violence require spaces free of men to recover from abusive experiences outside the sphere of male influence and without fear of attack by men, as well as to formulate and strategize with respect to political responses to women’s oppression and exploitation and to educate the public with respect to men’s violence against women.
In a CityNews Toronto article published on March 21, 2019, Morgane Oger claimed to have been engaged in an attempt to stop Vancouver City Council’s grant to the VRRWS since 2013 – a grant that had been awarded to VRRWS every year since 2005, earmarked for public education on violence against women.
As a result of Oger’s initiative, Vancouver City Council decided to end its grant to VRRWS after this year – a decision that ignored its own guidelines with respect to eligibility requirements. Oger now appears to be targeting the organization’s charitable status (March 15th, 2019, several times on March 19th, 2019 – here and here), and on March 20th, 2019, implied an intention to target BC Housing’s funding for VRRWS’ transition house.
On Twitter on (May 31st, 2018 ), Oger implied that VRRWS turns away women engaged in the sex trade. In fact, VRRWS provides services to such women, who are also included among its volunteers, employees and collective members.
On Twitter on (May 26th, 2018), Oger stated that VRRWS advocates for “heterosexual cisgender rights only” refusing services to victims of same-sex violence or to lesbians. These statements are incorrect. VRRWS provides services to all women who have suffered violence including same-sex violence.
On Twitter and Facebook, Oger constantly asserts that VRRWS has no legal basis (June 11th, 2018, March 26th, 2019 ) for its decision to provide services and shelter to women only. In human rights laws, both sex and gender identity are protected categories and must be balanced against each other.
In fact, there is a case before the BC Human Rights Tribunal right now which must, in the result, balance the sex-based rights of women with the “gender identity” rights of a trans person. It is not yet known how the BCHRT will rule but what is clear is that Oger constantly misrepresents the state of the law with respect to sex-based rights and gender identity rights, going so far as to say that there is no longer any such thing as sex-based rights in Canadian law, blatantly misleading the Canadian public on a regular basis in stating that those women’s organizations that act for and on behalf of women as a sex class are violating the law.
As it remains to be seen how these rights will be balanced when they conflict and it’s obvious that the struggle over the legal issues will be long, it is disingenuous to state that the law is clear and that women fighting for our rights before the law are in fact breaking it. To suggest this is an attempt to invalidate and dismiss women’s struggle long before the legal issues have been clarified. How can a person who so deliberately misrepresents the law adequately and appropriately represent Canadian citizens as a candidate for public office and as a federal MP?
Morgane Oger has also engaged in a prolonged attack on Meghan Murphy, an internationally respected Canadian feminist journalist, and on her publication, Feminist Current. Murphy has herself published principled and respectful articles, both at Feminist Current and other media, on the issues confronting us with respect to women’s right to organize, as women, in the struggle for our liberation and for the safety of women and girls in what have been till now sex-segregated spaces, respecting the privacy of women and girls and the need for spaces that provide relative safety, free from men.
Along with other women’s advocates, Murphy has appeared in the USA and UK, Scotland and Canada, at public events that encourage discussion and respectful debate on issues of “gender identity” and women’s rights. In Scotland, Murphy was invited to address Parliament by Scottish National Party MSP Joan McAlpine. McAlpine noted that Murphy is “a socialist and feminist who is admired around the world for her bravery in speaking up for women” and recommended that women who express concerns about “allowing males to self-identity as women and access single sex spaces and services … should not be subject to abuse, or knee-jerk accusations of transphobia.”
We believe that Morgane Oger has subjected Meghan Murphy and other women’s advocates to abuse and knee-jerk accusations of transphobia.
One of the public discussions on these issues took place at the Vancouver Public Library on January 10th, 2019. Morgane Oger continues to publicly attack the event, the women speakers, particularly Meghan Murphy and, indeed, the VPL itself for hosting this event. We would have thought that an NDP candidate would support free and respectful public dialogue on these important problems in human rights law and public policy – the name of your party includes the word “Democratic”. Far from exhibiting a tolerant and respectful position, Oger continues to assert that the discussion itself is unacceptable and to misrepresent the state of the law and public policy with respect to women’s and transgender rights.
It is important to support women’s access to public spaces for the purposes of discussing, debating and educating with respect to women’s rights. It is shocking to see a respected NDP MP such as yourself support and endorse a person who consistently attacks and harasses women, women’s advocates, women’s organizations and institutions and indeed, public institutions and democratic processes themselves, while misrepresenting the content of the discussion and the intentions of the speakers.
We wouldn’t have thought that a person such as Morgane Oger, engaged in such blatant and ongoing attempts to mislead the Canadian public and stifle public discussion and debate, would be an apt candidate for the office of MP as a member of the NDP. We are shocked by Oger’s decision to attempt to advance certain views and opinions regarding gender identity rights by attacking individual women and women’s organizations and by attempting to pre-empt open, public and democratic debate. Your decision to support Oger’s nomination campaign is equally shocking.
We call upon you to stand up for women’s political rights and support women’s right to safety and security in our daily lives as we organize towards our liberation . Given the NDP’s stated commitment to women in the face of our subordination and oppression, if you do not do so, who will? If we cannot support and vote for you and other NDP candidates, where shall we go?
Gordon B. Hill
Celia A. Nord
The Lesbian Collective
Canadian Feminist Network
Newfoundland & Labrador Feminists & Allies
Radical Feminists Unite
NB: Many more women wanted to sign this letter but were legitimately and justifiably concerned about retaliation in their workplaces and in public after witnessing women lose their jobs, receive workplace discipline and become targets for harassment, stalking and threats of doxxing on social media- and worse.