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Hamilton pulls Christian Heritage transgender-protest ads from HSR bus shelters

By Teviah Moro

The City of Hamilton has removed bus shelter ads placed by the Christian Heritage Party objecting to transgender women using female public washrooms.

Jim Enos, a former federal candidate on the Mountain, paid for the three advertisements at HSR bus shelters on the Mountain in early August as part of a public awareness campaign.

Enos wants people to call the mayor and councillors to provide input over a decision in April to firm up transgender rights with respect to public facilities, such as washrooms.

“We think public policy is public information. It should be open to public scrutiny,” Enos said Thursday.

City workers removed the ads from the bus shelters Wednesday night after the mayor’s office fielded a complaint, said Gerry Davis, public works general manager.

“We felt that the ads were inappropriate.”

Davis said the city doesn’t vet ads but relies on its contractor, Outfront Media, to make sure they meet provincial advertising standards, the human rights code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The city has the right to veto ads that local officials judge to be inappropriate or offensive, he added.

Davis acknowledged Outfront must have interpreted the overarching guidelines differently than the city. Staff plan to follow up with the agency Monday.

Outfront Media didn’t return a request for comment.

Cole Gately, a local transgender activist, said the ads “come very close to violating trans people’s human rights,” and promote “negative and inaccurate stereotypes about trans people.”

Coun. Sam Merulla called the ads “unfortunate.”

Merulla said “every group has a right to express themselves, except when it crosses over into what is considered hate speech.”

He said the ads should not be a reflection of the city’s commitment to inclusivity.

In April, the city vowed to “codify” its commitment to safe and accessible use of municipal facilities, such as washrooms, in a formal written policy, give extra training to employees and post signs where needed.

The decision followed a settlement with a transgender woman whom a security guard denied access to a female washroom at the MacNab Street bus terminal in 2014.

She took her case to Ontario’s human rights tribunal.

In 2012, the Ontario legislature passed Toby’s Act, amending the province’s human rights code to include gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination.

“Everyone has a right to access the washroom that works for them,” Gately said.

Enos argues the advertising campaign is about women’s rights.

“It’s a very fair question,” he said, quoting the ad’s slogan, “Competing Human Rights … Where is the justice?

“Why does a right of a man who feels like a woman supersede the right of the woman?”

The ad depicts a man walking toward a “ladies showers.”

Enos, who ran in last year’s federal election, doesn’t recognize the term “transgender.”

“A male is not a female at any time.”

Gately said people most at risk in public washrooms are trans people, especially trans women.

Enos argued the issue isn’t so much about danger to women, but their “feelings of modesty.”

The campaign isn’t targeting transgender men in male washrooms, he added. “Men aren’t as modest.”

Enos said he doesn’t know what he’ll do now that the ads were pulled.

“We paid $1,500. That’s gone,” he said, but added the campaign, which was meant to last a month, at least generated discussion.

Coun. Aidan Johnson posted on Facebook he plans to introduce a motion affirming council’s “resolve to avoid any such incident in the future.”

“I am very sorry that these ads went up.”

With files from Molly Hayes

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