Picture of the Wilfrid Laurier University landmark signage at the southeast corner of the Waterloo campus. The respected university is embroiled in a free speech issue for castigating a teaching assistant over a tutorial lesson in communication and language after she showed a brief clip of a publicly broadcast debate on a respected TV Ontario show.

Picture of the Wilfrid Laurier University landmark signage at the southeast corner of the Waterloo campus. The respected university is embroiled in a free speech issue for castigating a teaching assistant over a tutorial lesson in communication and language after she showed a brief clip of a publicly broadcast debate on a current affairs TV Ontario show.
Photo Credit: GatorEG- wiki commons

Canadian university embroiled in free speech controversy

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On its website page on Values, Vision, and Mission, Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, prides itself on a commitment to several aspects of critical thinking, debate, scholarly exploration of new ideas and so on.

Wilfrid Laurier University recognizes that intellectual inquiry, critical reflection and scholarly integrity are the cornerstones of all universities including our exceptional institution…Our commitment is to justice and sustainability now and in the future, so we strive to ignite the minds, spirits and hearts of our communities through excellence in teaching and learning, in the discovery, scholarly exploration, and application of new ideas, and in instilling the courage to engage and challenge the world in all its complexity.

That mission statement is being questioned by some editorialists after an incident involving a teaching assistant. University student Lindsay Shepherd, 22, leads tutorials on language use for first year communications students in a class called “Canadian Communication in Context”.

Wilfred Laurier University is embroild in an issue of suppression of free speech on campus
Wilfred Laurier University is embroiled in an issue of suppression of free speech on campus © WLU

In it she showed a short, three to five minute clip of a publicly broadcast TV Ontario show in which award-winning psychology professor Jordan Peterson who is against forced use of genderless and “made-up” pronouns, like “ze, and zir” amongst others, debated the issue with Nicholas Matte, a lecturer at the University of Toronto’s Sexual Diversity Studies programme.

Dr Peterson has become the centre of politically motivated controversy for his stance.

2016: Award winning University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson attempts to explain his position to a crowd oustide the university before being disrupted by an unruly group of protesters.
2016: Award winning University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson attempts to explain his position to a crowd outside the university before being disrupted by an unruly group of protesters. © youtube screen grab

In an email to RCI, Peterson wrote, “It was Nicholas Matte who claimed during that debate that ‘there is no biological difference between men and women.’ Apparently believing that to be patently untrue makes me Hitler, in the eyes of certain WLU professors”.

Shepherd said following the airing of the clip a lively but friendly debate ensued. “I thought it went really well”, she said.

But then a person or persons, the university refuses to say, complained.

The university called Shepherd to a meeting with her supervisor, the communications programme coordinator, and the acting manager of the “Gendered Violence Prevention and Support” programme.

She was accused of creating a “toxic climate” and that by airing the clip without condemning Dr Peterson’s position outright that she was “legitimizing” his views and that it was equivalent to “neutrally playing a speech by Hitler”.

According to one report the meeting left her in tears. She was told her lesson plans must be submitted in advance and she fears the job which helps pay for her Master’s studies might be taken away.

Quoted by the Waterloo Record she says, “”if this trend continues of radical leftist indoctrination, I’m not really interested in being a part of that. Universities are no longer places where ideas may freely circulate (…) where one can engage with controversial ideas. They are echo chambers for left-wing ideology”,

The university has said it has now engaged a neutral third party to investigate and gather facts.

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11 comments on “Canadian university embroiled in free speech controversy
  1. searcher says:

    Hello I want to report an error. CBC story on this, including the actual recorded interrogation, not to be found on CBC main site.

  2. searcher says:

    Where is the MotherCorp story on this? I can’t find it.

  3. Michael James Cobb says:

    The only solution is for Alumni to cease funding colleges that do not actively support free speech and the free interchange of ideas.

    Money talks, my friends.

  4. Anne says:

    I was 100% with her up until her remark about “radical leftist indoctrination” and “left-wing ideology” which has the unfortunate impact of tarnishing everyone on the left with the misplaced brush of delicate flowers who are unable to have educated and critical discussions. These remarks indicate a clear failure on the TA’s part to understand the history of the left, one of revolutionaries and challengers who actually give a damn about their fellow (wo)man. By throwing around the terms, “leftist” and “left-wing”, she is effectively taking a non-neutral position, contrary to what she argued in the interview she had secretly recorded. Perhaps we can chalk that up to her young age, I don’t know.

    It doesn’t matter if one person or multiple people complained; the university has to address it no matter how many people complained. However, she deserves to know the case against which she has to respond. The university should have shown her the complaint with the complainant’s personal and any identifying information redacted.

    When I attended university, critical thinking was encouraged. Contrary perspectives were encouraged, albeit sometimes with certain caveats. Disagreements are healthy. Respectful debate is healthy. Apparently this is no longer the case and I worry about the lines being drawn in the sand.

  5. Peter Ashcroft says:

    This seems to be a three-way problem. Basic male and female now seems to be excluding those people with cross-gender characters. This is a new situation that seems to be coming to the fore in many parts of the world.p

    • Manuel says:

      More like people with different psychology are being encourage to “other” themselv’s and to play victim when people react with anything other than compliance.
      Biology/evolution/anthropology/neurosciences/develomental psych will always triumph over social and gender studies, i have no problem calling any human being by their preferred pronouns i can respect the transition from one gender to the other and would forever respect their She or He pronouns, i would also call someone by special pronouns Ze, but, only in their presence, when they are gone, i would just assign a traditional pronoun.

      The very same way i would act if the pope or a religious person ask me to call them “Holiness”, sure i will, even i don’t suscribe to your dogma, out of respect, but once your gone… well Evidence triumphs your dogmatic constructivst or religious believes, sooo, you are Female or Male, He or She, nothing else, sorry evidence just points to it.

  6. c. mitchell says:

    It’s completely nonsensical that they need to bring in a “neutral third party” as it’s obvious that the university has violated it’s own “Values, Vision, and Mission” statement. This is merely a means of creating some manner of conceptual distance from the event. The answer is simple; apologize to Ms.Shepherd both privately and publicly as well as dissolve the clearly Orwellian “Gendered Violence Prevention and Support” programme (are such interrogations held in seminar room 101?)

  7. Alen says:

    The attacks on free speech are alarming to say the least. University student’s are being taught that free speech is wrong, that the countries they live in are immoral. If you can’t see a traitorous agenda of tyranny here you are stone blind.

  8. M says:

    She should be hauling them before the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Alas, they are as indoctrinated as the university is and may very well side with them.

  9. Finn says:

    Losers. If you let your kids go there you are guilty of supporting this insanity coming from these thought tyrants.