Stuart Parker resigned as interim leader of the fledging BC Ecosocialists Party late Tuesday evening after recent social media comments that were denounced as transphobic.
And the federal Green party first expelled candidate Meryam Haddad from the party’s leadership race after a controversy over her support for the BC Ecosocialists over the provincial Greens, and then reinstated Haddad after she appealed the decison.
Parker’s comments were in response to a Sept. 12 Facebook post made by Nicola Spurling, BC Greens provincial council member and a BC Green candidate in the 2017 election.
Spurling’s Facebook post discussed her “unfriending” of Judy Graves, the one-time homelessness advocate for the City of Vancouver who retired in 2013.
Graves had spoken out in favour of a short-lived “I [heart] JK Rowling” billboard in East Vancouver, seen by trans advocates as supportive of Harry Potter-author J.K. Rowling’s transphobic views.
The billboard was removed on Sept. 12 after being defaced with paint.
In a blog post on his resignation, Parker blamed “B.C.’s two counterfeit left parties” for using the issue to attack the BC Ecosocialists. “A slew of false allegations of transphobia are being circulated against me and being used to tarnish the party and derail the important work of the coming campaign,” he wrote.
According to Facebook’s time stamp, Parker responded to Spurling a week ago.
In addition to defending Graves, Parker repeated several of Rowling’s beliefs about trans people, including that trans children would be better served by talk therapy than sex transition surgery, that trans children are sterilized and that women have the right to both sex- and gender-segregated spaces.
Parker did not provide evidence for these claims.
Anyone under 19 in B.C. requires permission from a parent or guardian to undergo sex transition surgery.
And while many trans people do undergo talk therapy, studies have shown it does not replace the benefits of sex transition surgery for those who choose to pursue it.
There is no evidence to support claims that sharing bathrooms with trans women, for example, is dangerous for other women. But there is evidence to show trans people are put at risk of sexual and physical violence if they are forced to use bathrooms matching their genitals.
Parker’s post may have stayed under the radar if the BC Ecosocialists hadn’t received a surprise endorsement Monday from Haddad, a Montreal-based Green Party of Canada leadership candidate.
The response on Twitter was swift, with many, including Spurling, pointing Haddad to Parker’s comments, as well his blog post on trans people. Many called for Haddad to withdraw her endorsement.
On Tuesday, Haddad did just that. In another Twitter post denouncing Parker’s comments, Haddad, one of eight leadership candidates, demanded he apologize or she would disavow the BC Ecosocialists Party.
Haddad’s press person, Raidin Brailsford, forwarded Parker’s Facebook comments to The Tyee Monday, suggesting we remove Parker’s opinion piece about the BC Green Party.
On Tuesday, Haddad confirmed she had been expelled from the leadership contest as voting begins. She said the party cited its code of conduct, which says members must “not intentionally undertake any action which would bring the [Green Party of Canada] into disrepute.”
Haddad said the expulsion was “an attack on democracy, youth, progress and ideas that threaten the status quo.” She said Wednesday she was appealing the decision and accused the Green party executive of working to undermine her campaign. On Thursday, the party reinstated her candidacy.*
Parker, who was BC Green Party leader from 1993 until 2000, told The Tyee his Facebook comment was defending Graves — who retired seven years ago — from calls she should be fired, and Rowling from the “thousands of rape threats” she has received online.
“There was a debate happening on Nicola Spurling’s Facebook page about whether she and her friends should campaign to get Judy Graves fired,” he said. “I intervened. I said this is where these women are coming from, and I think this is a real tactical error. You’re driving feminists away from the cause of trans equality and pushing many people who were — like me — early adopters of trans equality, away.”
Spurling, who is a trans woman, told The Tyee she did not call for Graves to lose her job. She also disavows the rape threats Rowling has received.
The Tyee has confirmed that neither Spurling’s Facebook post nor the comments it received called for firing Graves or sexually assaulting Rowling.
“I think that was just a way he could enter the conversation and spout transphobia, while trying to hide behind the fact that [Rowling’s] receiving these hate comments,” Spurling said.
“No one should be posting transphobia online, and it’s no wonder that she received blowback from that. But if that blowback is coming in the form of threats of rape, that’s completely inappropriate.”
Spurling notes the BC Ecosocialists’ own policies call for the provincial health insurance plan to cover all “gender transition” surgeries.
“The BC Ecosocialists Party represents a lot of what I stand for in general in terms of being a very progressive person within the Green party,” she said.
On Thursday, the BC Ecosocialists released a statement on Parker’s resignation affirming its support for trans rights.
In an interview before Parker announced his resignation, he referred to the negative response as “a blizzard of cancel culture silliness.”
“The idea is that this proves that I’m transphobic, because I don’t think a long-term feminist leader in my city should be fired for saying it’s wrong to rape J.K. Rowling,” he said.
Parker said Rowling’s position that talk therapy is better than sex transition surgery “might be transphobic.”
“Rowling disagrees with a detail of the current agenda of the trans-rights movement. And I pointed that out as well. I was trying to give Nicola and her friends a sense of context as to why this struck me as an overreaction,” Parker said.
Asked what impact his comments might have on the party, Parker said not voting for the BC Ecosocialists because of his views would mean supporting education cuts and fracking and reneging on First Nations’ rights.
“It would really disappoint me if people decided that those views were more important than stopping Kitimat LNG, than recognizing the sovereignty of the Wet'suwet'en people, than stopping education austerity,” he said, again characterizing his comment as defending Graves’ job.
“It would be a real shame. But god knows the left today is not the left it was the last time I did this 25 years ago.”