Letter to Supreme Court of Canada on the (mis)Use of Pronouns
Updated: Apr 9, 2022
Via email: COTES@SCC-CSC.CA
The Honourable Madame Justice Suzanne Côté
Supreme Court of Canada
301 Wellington Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0J1
Dear Madame Justice Côté,
Recently I was informed that the Canadian Bar Association has written to you to regarding use of preferred, as opposed to sex-based, pronouns in the Supreme Court of Canada. As a Catholic woman, I would like to add my voice to those vociferously opposing such a measure.
While the proponents of preferred pronouns in the courts claim that “inclusivity” requires that individuals be permitted to determine how others refer to them in the third person, millions of Canadians believe that such practice is, in fact, rooted in an ideology, to be specific, gender ideology, to which we do not subscribe, and which we consider akin to a religious dogma that is being forced on our society by a tiny group of activists.
Canada is a tolerant and multicultural society, a fact that the vast majority of Canadians, myself included, are proud of. We believe in the Canadian value that all human beings have equal rights, and that no person should face discrimination based on any personal attribute, be it sex, ethnicity, religion, disability or any other aspect of their identity or appearance. But there is a difference between rejecting discrimination and asking that a minority receive special treatment that will destroy the rights of others to conscience, speech, fair treatment, and justice.
Canadians have rejected gender ideology for a variety of reasons. Some base their objections on scientific facts: the facts that homo sapiens is a sexually dimorphic species, that sex is immutable, and that regardless of “gender expression” (often based on a variety of sexist stereotypes), or surgical procedures designed to enable an individual to appear as the sex they are not, every human being is either male or female.
Gender ideology is a belief system that posits that an individual's "deeply felt" (but unsubstantiated) "sense" of "being a man or a women," trumps biology. This ideology ignores the fact that women the world over are subjected to discrimination, persecution and torture on the basis of their SEX. Gender ideology has many similarities to religious faiths, in that its adherents provide no scientific proof that “gender”, as opposed to biological sex, actually exists. And as a belief system neither the government nor the courts should force this ideology on individuals who do not believe in it.
Others maintain that gender ideology conflicts with their own beliefs, ranging from the religious to the philosophical. For example, Muslim Canadians, who in 2019 constituted nearly 4% of the Canadian population, reject the idea that a man can literally become a woman, and therefore do not accept that women must share sex segregated spaces like change rooms with men who maintain that their claimed “gender identity” makes them women. Most Muslims also believe that there are two distinct sexes and that God is never wrong, so it is impossible for a person to be “born in the wrong body.”
In a similar vein, many Catholic Canadians agree with Pope Francis’ teaching on this issue, that “...‘gender’ ideology...is dangerous...because it is abstract with respect to the concrete life of a person, as if a person could decide abstractly at will if and when to be a man or a woman.” While Catholics are taught to have compassion for all humans, such compassion cannot compel individuals to make statements that they believe to be untrue for the sake of sparing the feelings of other individuals. Compelled use of preferred pronouns would force Catholics to violate their own conscientious beliefs. Catholics comprised nearly 40% of Canadians in the 2011 census.
Many who maintain a “rationalist” approach toward this issue insist that gender ideology requires a belief in an unverifiable and unscientific mind/body duality, in which one’s “gendered soul” may be different from one’s sexed body. They also point out that the idea that some humans are “non-binary” in fact creates a new binary, between those who insist they are neither male nor female, and those who accept their biological sex (or who imagine that they can become the sex they are not). Millions of Canadian women fall into this category, whether they call themselves feminists, or simply believe that the word woman is defined by biology, and means adult female human.
No one would deny that those individuals who experience gender dysphoria are entitled to equal treatment under the law. The problem with requiring, or even encouraging, preferred pronoun usage in court settings is that it does not take into account the effects of such usage on other groups, particularly women and girls, who, as stated above, experience oppression and discrimination on the basis of their sex.
Let us consider certain situations which have already arisen in courts in Canada and other English speaking countries. In one case, an elderly woman was assaulted in a public park by a young man claiming to be a woman, and during the court procedures which followed, the victim was forced to refer to her assailant as “she” and “her,” a circumstance which added more trauma to her experience. In British Columbia parents who have opposed the medical transition of their minor children in court have been forced to refer to those children by wrong-sex pronouns. Those parents’ Charter rights to free speech and freedom of belief have been violated, and their legal position has been undermined by this practice. Forcing individuals to use wrong-sex pronouns is compelled speech, and also forces them to lie in court, something that the Supreme Court of Canada should, in my opinion, consider very seriously.
But the issue of pronoun directives in courts of law goes beyond these concerns. Such tacit acceptance of gender ideology has enormous ramifications for the justice system in general. The courts are often the last, or the only, resort of female victims of male violence. It has been documented in the UK, Ireland, the United States, Australia and Canada that male assailants who claim a “transgender” identity receive lighter sentences than would have been expected for the crimes they committed.
In addition, allowing individuals to “self-identify” as the sex they are not means that violent male offenders have been placed in the women’s prison estate. This has been documented in the UK, the US, and by prisoner advocate Heather Mason in Canada. I myself have heard a prison guard in Abbotsford, BC confirm that male prisoners who have been placed in the women’s prison are assaulting women prisoners there.
None of this is surprising, and is corroborated by a Swedish study that found that “male-to-females . . . retained a male pattern regarding criminality. The same was true regarding violent crime.”
The use of pronouns in courts of law, therefore is definitely not uncontroversial, and is not simply a matter of “being kind” or “being inclusive” or respecting the feelings of a minority group. For many Canadians, including, but not limited to women, parents, and people of faith, it is a matter of deadly seriousness. As one writer has maintained, “Pronouns are rohypnol. They dull your defences. They change your inhibitions. They’re meant to. You’ve had a lifetime’s experience learning to be alert to ‘him’ and relax to ‘her’. For good reason. This instinctive response keeps you safe. It’s not even a conscious thing. It’s like your hairs standing on end. Your subconscious brain is helping you not get eaten by the sabre tooth tiger that your eyes haven’t noticed yet.”
I am firmly convinced that a considerable majority of Canadians does not support the enforced use of preferred pronouns, a type of compelled speech, in our courts.
A Concerned Canadian