March 20, 2024 - 1:00pm

Amy Hamm is a Canadian nurse. Yesterday was the final day of hearings into a disciplinary case against her, which has dragged on for 18 months. It’s been a nightmare for Hamm, but it’s also a test case of how far Canada is prepared to go to enforce an authoritarian ideology on women.

Hamm’s ordeal has nothing to do with how she does her job. The British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives opened an investigation after just two people complained that she was one of the sponsors of a billboard praising the author J.K. Rowling in 2020. This is heresy in Canada, where transgender ideology enjoys the status of holy writ and Rowling is regarded as chief witch.

The regulator swung into action, producing a 332-page report on Hamm’s activities, accusing her of making “discriminatory and derogatory statements regarding transgender people, while identifying yourself as a nurse or nurse educator”. With the zeal of inquisitors, they pored over tweets, podcast transcripts and articles, coming to the damning conclusion that Hamm believes there is a conflict between women’s rights and the demands of trans activists.

Of course there is. It’s a simple statement of fact. Yet the Canadian government is proposing legislation that includes a power to arrest someone who “might” commit a “hate crime” in future, forcing them to wear an electronic tag or remain at home. The prospect of a future Amy Hamm being placed under house arrest in Canada may seem outlandish. But trans activists in Scotland, who are salivating over the prospect of using the hate crime law that comes into effect on 1 April to target Rowling, must be looking on with envy.

The disciplinary action against Hamm has nevertheless exposed the reactionary project at the heart of trans ideology, which is to return to a situation where women’s right to exist in public is conditional. Hamm’s lawyer, Lisa Bildy, made exactly this point. “A key issue in this case is whether professionals can express criticism of gender identity ideology or other political issues in the public square without being subject to regulatory discipline,” she said as the hearings in Vancouver ended.

The same issue emerged in the case of Rachel Meade, the British social worker placed under investigation by her regulator for “liking” gender-critical tweets. In January, Meade won multiple claims of harassment against her employer, Westminster City Council — which suspended her for a year — and the regulator, Social Work England. Her compensation has yet to be decided.

What’s happening in the UK and in Canada is nothing less than an attempt to impose conditions on women’s involvement in public life. You can keep your job, but only if you accept the prevailing ideology. You can use public buildings, but you mustn’t complain about men in the ladies’ toilets. And if you hold meetings in a public place, you should expect to be intimidated and harassed if you dare suggest that trans women are men.

Women fought for centuries for unconditional access to the public square, refusing to stay at home and be quiet. And Hamm is on the front line of a fight that matters to us all. “This process was hell,” she posted on X last night. “I […] endured it because the truth matters. Free speech matters. Women and children matter.”

Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She has been Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board since 2013. Her book Homegrown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists was published in 2019.