Prominent gay lawyer Douglas Elliott has filed a $104-million class action lawsuit against anti-gay activist Bill Whatcott for crashing the 2016 Toronto Pride parade.
Elliott is also seeking an injunction from the court to prevent Whatcott and his associates from crashing anymore Pride parades in Canada.
Whatcott and several unidentified allies suited up in neon green body suits and disseminated anti-gay literature at the July 3 Toronto parade, calling themselves “gay zombies.”
The lawsuit seeks in part to determine the identities of those who marched with Whatcott and those who financially supported the political stunt through subpoenaed documents.
“Those who paid for his airfare or donated Aeroplan miles to get him to Toronto, those who put him up in Toronto, the people who paid to print the pamphlets: anyone who helped him in any way could be on the hook for $100 million dollars.” says Elliott, whose firm Cambridge LLP is handling the lawsuit.
Bill Whatcott and his assistants wore green bodysuits to sneak into Toronto’s Pride parade on July 3, 2016. (Courtesy Bill Whatcott)
The two main representatives of the class action suit are well known in the gay community, Christopher Hudspeth, who owns Pegasus Bar in Toronto’s gay village, and former MPP George Smitherman, Ontario’s first openly gay provincial representative and first openly gay cabinet minister.
Both marched in the parade on July 3, 2016 — and in the case of Smitherman have marched in every parade dating back to 1986. Smitherman says he joined the suit to “do all we can to stamp this hateful individual out.”
“Too often, religion is used as the justification for the vilest of homophobia. From my life on the inside of the fundamentalist movement, I know that promoting homophobia is a great way to raise money from other fundamentalists,” explains Hudspeth, who was raised in a fundamentalist Pentecostal home and spoke of the experience at the Aug 12 press conference in Ottawa announcing the lawsuit.
“There is no doubt in my mind that some fundamentalist group, either here or in the United States, is backing these activities. We need to smoke them out.”
As a gay father, Smitherman says he is deeply offended that Whatcott is once again equating homosexuality with pedophilia.
“My outrage and disgust at the duplicitous means by which Whatcott and his so-called zombies will go to to interrupt this place where love is supposed to be safe and to use the most defamatory statements possible, to regurgitate the most untruthful and disgusting stereotypes with respect to gay and lesbian people, means this [lawsuit] is the right thing to do,” Smitherman says.
“We need to get right to the heart of the matter, which is the financial resources that allow for this disgraceful person to continue his act, which is hurtful to the thousands and thousands that it has impacted.”
When reached by Facebook, Whatcott tells Daily Xtra that he should have been welcomed into the Pride parade, not sued for participating.
“I just read the statement of claim. It seems to me the poor homosexuals are angry at God and the Gospel. They should have welcomed me in their parade as a much needed truth teller and indeed I was far less disruptive than BLM [Black Lives Matter]. Not sure why the homosexual activists aren’t suing them,” Whatcott writes.
(Claire Wählen/Daily Xtra)
If the class action is certified, Elliott says he intends to ask for a summary judgment.
“Where a case is clear cut, there is no point in going through the expense and delay associated with a trial, [so we can] bring a motion to the court for a summary judgment and get it over with, quickly and inexpensively,” Elliott says.
However, they still need to serve Whatcott who, without a permanent address, has been difficult for them to track down, the plaintiffs say.
Whatcott is well known to courts and tribunals in Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia as an anti-gay activist for previous protests, both at parades and on university campuses.
In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld part of a 2005 Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal against Whatcott, for distributing flyers targeting gay and lesbian Canadians.
Before infiltrating the Toronto Pride parade in 2016, Whatcott had similarly faked his identity in 2014 to march along with the Vancouver Pride parade, that time under the disguise of fictitious Calgary Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, to distribute anti-gay leaflets disguised as condoms.
Whatcott told Daily Xtra that he and six of his supporters distributed 3,000 flyers at the Toronto Pride parade, including to parade goers, that warned of risks allegedly associated with gay sex.
(Claire Wählen/Daily Xtra)
The two-page flyer featured graphic photos of anal warts and a dead body described as an “AIDS fatality.” A second page criticizes the “homosexual activism” of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and former Liberal defence minister Bill Graham.
They, among other Liberals, are being listed as a subclass to the class action suit, as having been targeted by the content of the pamphlets and singled out for their political affiliations. The two main classes of the suit are those marchers who legitimately signed up and marched in the Pride parade, and those who received copies of the flyer at the parade.