The Finance Minister of Canada’s Northwest Territory, Michael Miltenberger has been reported to the Human Rights Commission. He is accused of discriminating against a woman in Fort Smith, NWT, during a visit by the Governor General to Aurora College campus on 9 December because she is transgender.
A report by Canada’s CBS News alleges that Miltenberger approached Gabrielle Landrie, who is studying math and business, and asked her to leave.
At the time, she was standing near a computer lab with a friend. Ms Landrie claims: “Mr. Miltenberger walked up to us, looked at me directly, and said ‘You have to leave’”.
She went on: “And I said, ‘oh?’, and he said ‘You spooked the governor general so you have to leave’.”
When Landrie refused to comply, the minister stormed off, before returning a few minutes later to tell her the route had been changed because the Governor General had no wish to see her. He informed Landrie that she had to leave the premises.
She said that she was about to leave, but had school work to finish. This led to a third confrontation shortly after, as she was finishing up in the computer lab. According to CBS News, Ms Landrie said: “He came into the lab and he goes, looking at me, ‘I thought I told you to leave’”.
She told him her that homework comes first, and Miltenberger then left. However, she adds: “The amount of anger… you could basically almost taste it”.
She left the building after she had completed her work, taking care to leave the building by a route which would not pass by the Governor General or the Finance Minister. Ms Landrie is now filing a complaint with the Northwest Territories Human Rights Commission on the grounds that the incident was uncalled for and extremely hurtful.
She said: “The way it was done, the way it was handled, that wasn’t right”.
According to the Office of the Governor General says the Governor’s exit route from the college was changed – but only because the event went on longer than expected.
Michael Miltenberger has refused to comment on the matter because the complaint is now before the Human Rights Commission.
What is there to say? In all fairness, we should wait for the verdict of the HRC – although the trans community will not be holding its breath.
Such investigations often take weeks or months, reporting in the dead of night long after the original offence has taken place. Although one can be sure that where a trans man or woman has given “real offence” to a law enforcement officer, the response will take place in seconds – in the US, often at the end of a taser.
If the report is broadly true, we will no doubt now be treated to an infinitesimal dissection of the events until we are no longer sure of the meaning of words like “ask” or “leave”.
Pre-judging? Perhaps: but then, there are details in the story that have a depressing ring of truth about them. The way in which Ms Landrie contemplated complying with the request to leave: the way in which she DID leave the building in such a way as not to give offense.
These are tactics well-known to almost anyone who has ever transitioned: the desire not to offend; the almost masochistic tendency to go along with the bully, just for a quiet life.
Too, there is the refusal by Mr Miltenberger to comment: no doubt, had the alleged target of his bullying been a person of colour, the public outcry would have forced at least some response from betwixt his tightly-clamped lips. But not in the case of a trans woman.
We shall see.
Meanwhile, those following this story should be aware that in some quarters, Mr Miltenberger is widely tipped to be NWT’s next premier.
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