Right-leaning conference interrupted by protesters

Jordan Peterson, Ezra Levant amongst keynote speakers at Toronto Action Conference

Right-leaning conference interrupted by protesters

A student-run conference on campus showcasing conservative and libertarian speakers was disrupted and ultimately halted following protests and the pulling of a fire alarm.

Students in Support of Free Speech (SSFS) co-hosted the sold-out 2017 Toronto Action Forum with Generation Screwed at the Sandford Fleming Building on February 4.

Professor Jordan Peterson, who gained national attention in the fall after he released a YouTube lecture series called Professor against political correctness, was one of the keynote speakers, alongside conservative activist and publisher of The Rebel, Ezra Levant.

SSFS is a campus club with Ulife recognition that was founded after an October rally in support of free speech and Peterson was also disrupted. Generation Screwed is the student wing of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a conservative and libertarian-leaning advocacy group.

The Sandford Fleming auditorium, which seats 222, was mostly full for the event. Although Generation Screwed’s mandate focuses mostly on government spending and taxation, speakers at the conference discussed a wide variety of issues, including supporting the Canadian oil industry, hydro rates, freedom of speech, and ‘political-correctness’ on campus. Around a dozen attendees could be seen wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ hats.

Protesters at Sandford Fleming

About 30 protesters arrived outside the lecture hall at around 4:00 pm, during a talk called “How Political Intervention Has Led to Soaring Energy Prices for Ontario.” By that time, organizers and Campus Police were restricting people from entering and exiting the hall, and they formed a human chain outside one of the exits.

“The speaker that was in the middle of talking while this disruption was happening was talking about how high hydro rates hurt lower class Ontarians more than anybody else, so that was when they arrived,” said Aaron Gunn, Executive Director for Generation Screwed.

Amongst the protesters were community activists Qaiser Ali and Lane Patriquin, who have been active at past protests and counter-protests on campus. Also in attendance was Cassandra Williams, Vice-President University Affairs of the University of Toronto Students’ Union.

Geoffrey Liew, the Vice-President of SSFS and the organizer of the original free speech rally, told The Varsity that the interruption was not unexpected. “We expected some resistance, but we didn’t expect that it would be that visceral as when it happened,” he said.

The protesters marched towards the doors to the auditorium where the event was taking place, but were blocked by a line of campus police officers. Chants of “Fuck white supremacy!” and “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” echoed throughout the building.

At one point, a protester could be seen attempting to lunge past the officers.

In response, some conference attendees, including Rebel correspondents Lauren Southern, Jay Fayza, and Faith Goldy began chanting “Trump!” and “Build that wall!”

Ali told The Varsity that they were “protesting the fact that the university has both allowed and sanctioned an alt-right, neo-fascist hate conference starring Ezra Levant.”

Ali alleged that Levant and The Rebel sent journalists to harass transgender students, and that Levant has become a proponent of the Québec City mosque ‘truther’ movement, spreading conspiracy theories saying that another Muslim person carried out the Quebec City shooting.

The Varsity made multiple attempts to reach Levant for comment on these
allegations,
but did not receive a response as of press time.
Levant subsequently responded to The Varsity on Monday by email to address the use of the word “fascist” in association with himself and The Rebel. “Our entire Rebel delegation at this event was female, Jewish, gay or black,” he wrote, “I don’t think we’d make very good fascists.”
Levant added that some of the protestors, whom he called “professional protesters,” were “dressed in black [and] wore masks over their face.” He also alleged that the activities of the protesters constituted “trespass and illegal mischief,” and that they “threatened violence.”

Levant declined to comment further on allegations about The Rebel‘s coverage of the mosque shooting, or to clarify what he meant by the term “professional protesters.”

“The university has been made aware by many students of the fact that they have been encouraging or doing nothing to stop far right extremist politics,” Ali went on. “Students [are] afraid to come to class, that has led to students harassed by Rebel Media journalists, that has led to students being doxxed.” ‘Doxxing’ is a phrase used to describe the practice of identifying individuals’ personal information and distributing it online.

Event, protesters move outside

Levant, described on the billing for the event as a “Human Rights Activist,” was scheduled to speak at 4:45 pm. About five minutes into his talk, titled “Trumping Trudeau,” the fire alarm was pulled and conference guests were asked to evacuate out a back door by Campus Police.

Chad Hallman, one of the organizers of the event and the Public Relations Director at SSFS, told The Varsity that he “[thinks] they would have protested this regardless of who was speaking. They used [Levant] as a scapegoat.”

The audio equipment and banners were moved outside, and Levant continued his talk to a group of people circled around him.

Conference guests and protesters poured outside to the grass bordering the west side of King’s College Road, and a heavy Toronto Police presence materialized.

There were about 37 police officers, some of whom formed a long human chain from the Sandford Fleming Building to the road, effectively dividing the protesters from the conference guests.

Lane Patriquin, one of the protesters, told The Varsity that they were “practicing no-platforming, which is the practice of removing platforms and venues for fascists and crypto-fascists so that they do not have the opportunity to spread their rhetoric.”

Both SSFS and Generation Screwed say that the allegations that they are associated with “fascist” and “racist” ideologies are false. Their professed missions are for freedom of speech and fiscal responsibility, respectively.

While the protesters aimed to remove the platform from Levant, members of SSFS believe that the protesting actions only help their cause.

“What these people have done is they’ve shown, just as they have time and time again, and it’s the same people, that free speech is under attack in universities,” Hallman said.

He went on: “Free speech is not what they claim it to be on campus — they’ve completely legitimized this.”

On Sunday, Generation Screwed released a public statement, calling the accusations of fascism and racism to be “laughable and false” and committing to holding more student conferences in the future.

Event ends amidst heavy police presence

Liew said that, shortly after the building was evacuated, he was asked to bring the event to a close.

“The staff sergeant took me aside and then he said, ‘This event is over, the university is no longer able to provide a safe venue, and it’s a concern of security.’ So we were to announce that the event was over and cooperate in all actions of police.”

U of T Media Relations Director Althea Blackburn-Evans confirmed that campus police made the decision to end the event early, due to safety concerns. She explained that room bookings on campus are rarely discontinued, unless there’s  “an unmanageable security risk or safety risks or there’s a good reason to believe that unlawful activity will occur.”

SSFS and Generation Screwed brought the audio equipment and banners back inside, and the crowd began to disperse soon after the event was halted.

Gunn told The Varsity that he was “not thrilled about” the university’s decision to end the event, but noted that they were already at the tail-end of the conference before it was shut down.

Blackburn-Evans stated, “This is fundamentally a place where people have the ability to examine and question a whole variety of issues and that happens every day and you see it reflected in many of our central policies, so it means that controversial viewpoints are often shared and that happens at universities, but it doesn’t guarantee that anything said on our campuses is protected.” 

“Organizers have a responsibility to ensure that speakers follow the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Criminal Code, and of course, our policies, the policies at the university,” she continued.

Peterson, speaking to The Varsity following his morning talk, said that he doesn’t think anything surrounding the climate of free speech on campus has changed since October.

When asked whether he thinks that the conflict over the limits of free speech will go away, Peterson said, “It can’t go away. I’m not inclined to take a wild swing at any hornets’ nests that I can avoid but it isn’t going away, obviously, it’s not going away.”

He continued, “If anything… this is going to become more intense.”

With files from Tom Yun.

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include a response from Ezra Levant.

CBC cancels broadcast of Bill C-16 debate

Broadcaster cites harassment directed at debate participants

CBC cancels broadcast  of Bill C-16 debate

CBC has announced that it has cancelled its planned broadcast of the forum on Bill C-16 citing “serious harassment” directed at two of the participants.

The forum took place at U of T on November 19, 2016, and included psychology professor Jordan Peterson, law professor Brenda Cossman, and University of British Columbia Professor of Education and Senior Associate Dean, Administration, Faculty Affairs & Innovation, Mary Bryson, as participants.

Peterson, who gained international media attention for his YouTube video on Bill C-16 — which is federal legislation that criminalizes discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression — debated Cossman and Bryson on that topic.

Peterson tweeted that Ideas, a current-affairs radio show that airs on CBC Radio One, originally planned to broadcast the forum on January 8, but cancelled due to “harassment aimed at the other participants.” In another tweet, he said that the show is “looking into another forum to explore the issues raised in the debate.”

U of T Media Relations Director Althea Blackburn-Evans confirmed with The Varsity that the CBC had recorded the audio of the debate and intended to broadcast it at a later date. CBC Head of Public Affairs Chuck Thompson also confirmed the information contained in Peterson’s tweets.

“In light of the serious harassment experienced by 2 of the panelists, we made a decision to look for other opportunities to discuss Bill C16 – an important issue,” said Thompson in an email statement to The Varsity. “We’ll have more to say about our coverage in the coming weeks.”

In December, The Ubyssey reported that Bryson had received homophobic and transphobic messages as well as “violent threats” over social media following their participation at the forum. Blackburn-Evans told The Varsity, “If there are concerns about threats of some kind, that would be what UBC would be looking into and addressing.”

Peterson did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.

U of T’s biggest stories of 2016

The Varsity looks back at events that made headlines this past year

U of T’s biggest stories of 2016
Divestment march at U of T. CC Flickr by Milan Ilnyckyj.

Divestment march at U of T. CC Flickr by Milan Ilnyckyj.

Fossil fuel divestment report recommendations rejected

In February, U of T President Meric Gertler rejected recommendations from the Presidential Committee on Divestment from Fossil Fuels for the university to divest from companies that “engage in egregious behaviour and contribute inordinately to social injury.” The decision came after three years of student protests calling for U of T to take a stronger leadership role in mitigating the effect of climate change, with student-led environmental advocacy group UofT350 at the forefront of the cause.

In the report detailing his decision, Gertler moved for the university to take a “firm-by-firm” approach to divestment as opposed to a blanket divestment approach. His method proposed making decisions based on environmental, social, and governance-based factors (ESG), the advantage being that UofT could reconcile its fiduciary responsibilities with climate action.

UofT350 expressed disappointment over Gertler’s decision, saying that his rejection of divestment “totally ignores the urgent need to act on climate change, suggesting that tactics like ESG, shareholder activism and carbon disclosure are sufficient to encourage rapid societal shifts to carbon free economies.” The group engaged in several protests against Gertler’s decision, including one at the 2016 Cressy Awards Ceremony, in which UofT350 members dropped banners criticizing the university’s inaction.

— Josie Kao


NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

Food Services at UTSG taken over by university 

U of T announced in late January that the university would not be renewing its contract with Aramark, UTSG’s food services provider, and announced that it would take control of these services starting in August.

Employment under new management was offered to all UTSG Aramark employees, although UNITE HERE Local 75, the union representing Aramark employees on campus, cited concerns regarding job security, seniority, wages, and a 90-day probationary period after their re-hiring.

These concerns sparked protests on campus; food service employees, their friends and family, other unionized workers, and students participated. UNITE HERE Local 75 also organized a seven-day hunger strike, which took place during the June convocation. Seven people participated in this hunger strike, including two UTSG food services employees; food service workers employed elsewhere; and UNITE HERE international organizing director, David Saunders.

Nearly all of the 250 food service employees were re-hired by U of T  and are now represented by CUPE 3261. An increase in hourly wages was also offered to the former Aramark employees. Under the contract with the university, workers receive $20.29 per hour  up from the $12.00 to $12.80 most workers were paid while employed by Aramark. Additionally, their employment with the university includes health plans, vacation time, and a tuition waiver for the employees and their dependents.

— Shanna Hunter


NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

Canadian Federation of Students faced criticism from U of T

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), an organization that includes over 80 student unions from across the country, was the subject of a report released by the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) ad-hoc CFS committee.

The report detailed the relationship between the union and the federation and noted several concerns, including the unavailability of documents to the public, the powers granted to un-elected staff, and an “unnecessarily burdensome” process to leave the CFS.

The University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) unsuccessfully attempted to deferederate and remains a member of the CFS, after a legal decision was reached in July, despite the fact that 66 per cent of students who voted in the referendum of 2014 voted to leave the federation. The referendum was seven votes short of quorum.

A UTSG campaign, called You Decide UofT, was also launched to petition for a referendum on UTSU Local 98’s membership in the CFS. You Decide UofT has claimed impartiality on the question of defederation, but believes “students should have the opportunity to decide if they want to continue to be in the CFS.”

In September, UTSU was among ten signatories of an open letter to the CFS, which cited concerns such as a lack of transparency, excessive powers possessed by federation staff, a “closed” and “exclusive” tone set at general meetings, and an overly complicated process to leave the CFS. The federation’s chairperson, Bilan Arte, later responded, saying she would “ensure their concerns are addressed” and stated that she planned to follow up with each of the ten signatories.

 The CFS National Executive has since committed to making documents, such as financial statements, available online in hope of increasing transparency. Additionally, a motion to lower the signature threshold needed on petitions to trigger defederation referendums was approved at the CFS National General Meeting, which took place from November 18–21.

 — Shanna Hunter


PHOTO COURTESY OF SYED ISHTIAQUE AHMED

PHOTO COURTESY OF SYED ISHTIAQUE AHMED

U of T student, Tahmid Hasib Khan, held in Bangladesh then released 

U of T student Tahmid Hasib Khan was detained by police for suspected involvement in a hostage crisis in early July, when armed militants stormed into the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Khan was en route to a summer internship with UNICEF and stopped in Dhaka to visit his family. Five militants entered the restaurant while he was eating with friends, and held the patrons hostage.

Khan was among 13 hostages who escaped unharmed, but was taken into police custody after the attack. Khan’s friends and family demanded his release, but Khan’s status was unknown until August 4, when his arrest was announced by the Bangladeshi Police.

A Facebook page called “Free Tahmid” was created to support Khan’s release and has amassed over 67,000 likes. Weeks later, a video surfaced showing Tahmid holding a gun along an alleged attacker, but according to witnesses of the incident, Khan was forced by the militants to hold the weapon.  

U of T President Meric Gertler penned a letter to Global Affairs Canada and Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, offering the university’s assistance. Global Affairs Canada noted that it was limited in how it could help Khan, due to the fact that he was not a Canadian citizen.

Khan was released in October, although he was charged with not cooperating with police for interviews on July 10th and 21st.

 — Vivian Li


UTSU AGM. NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

UTSU AGM. NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

A year at the UTSU: lawsuit, health coverage expansion, election disqualifications

The UTSU had initiated a lawsuit in September 2015 against its former President, Yolen Bollo-Kamara; its former Vice President Internal and Services, Cameron Wathey; and former Executive Director Sandra Hudson.The UTSU claimed that Bollo-Kamara and Wathey fraudulently authorized 2,589.5 hours of overtime pay for Hudson, leaving her with a severance package of $247,726.40, which accounted for approximately 10 per cent of the union’s operating budget. This was despite Hudson allegedly never having claimed any overtime hours during her employment.

In January, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU)’s legal dispute with Bollo-Kamara came to a close after the union’s announcement that both parties had reached a settlement and it would no longer be pursuing a lawsuit against her. The union and Wathey settled their dispute in February. The terms of both settlements remain confidential, although Wathey’s affadavit, made public, stated that he did not financially benefit from the arrangement.

The UTSU’s legal dispute with Hudson is ongoing. Hudson argues that she earned the money that she was paid by the UTSU. She also filed a counterclaim against the union, seeking $300,000 in damages, and alleging that the union breached the confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses of their agreement.

Later in the year, it was announced that the union was expanding the services offered through the UTSU health and dental plan, including psychological care. The changes, which took effect in September 2016, entitled members to receive up to $100 of coverage per session with a registered psychologist, for up to 20 sessions per year.

The union’s elections in March took a surprising turn when all members of the 1UofT slate were disqualified after rulings from the union’s Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC) and the election’s chief returning officer (CRO).

Complications also arose with the UTSU-led Student Commons project, with the union forecasting roughly $300,000 in operational deficits within the first year of the building’s opening.

In October, the UTSU’s proposal for a student levy averaging $3.75 per session for the next five years failed, with 74.5 per cent of voters voting against the fee. The proposed levy would have supported clubs, events, and student service funding.

After a history of annual general meetings (AGM) marked by delays, disruptions, and heated debates, this year’s UTSU’s AGM held on October 28 was praised for its civility and lack of controversy. The meeting saw three motions carried, including the establishment of an Appellate Board, for students to voice concerns or complaints about the election process. The other two motions concerned the union’s budgeting process.

— Emaan Thaver


NATHAN CHAN/THEVARSITY

NATHAN CHAN/THEVARSITY

Black Liberation Collective called for UTSU boycott

In October, the Black Liberation College called for a boycott of the UTSU and arranged a protest at the UTSU office, with posters plastering the UTSU office outlining the demands of BLC and identifying former and current members of UTSU by name for their alleged anti-Blackness.

The demands outlined by BLC of the UTSU were for increased funding for Black student groups on campus, for UTSU to drop its ongoing lawsuit with former UTSU executive director Sandra Hudson, and for UTSU to organize a town hall meeting to address the alleged systemic anti-Black racism within UTSU.

A statement released by UTSU after the protest addressed funding demands, stating that UTSU would establish “guaranteed funding for Level 3 clubs at the point of renewed recognition.”

On the lawsuit with Hudson, the statement called for “all individuals affected by the current legal dispute, including all parties to the lawsuit, to be treated with respect.”

In response to BLC demands for a town hall, UTSU held a town hall on November 10 regarding anti-Black racism that garnered five attendees. UTSU was lambasted by BLC for its lack of consultation with Black student groups on campus and poor organization, calling it a “useless” ploy “for good PR.”

Poor attendance at this initial town hall led to the cancellation of a second town hall on anti-Black racism that was meant to be held during the eXpression Against Oppression (XAO) week of activities. Though the UTSU stated it would organize another town hall in collaboration with Black student groups, but could not provide a timeline for when this would occur.

 — Lesley Flores


NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

St. Michael’s College Students’ Union

The St. Michael’s College Students’ Union (SMCSU) has seen its fair share of controversy this academic year.

In late July, the college administration launched an investigation into SMCSU’s finances after finding evidence of financial mismanagement in the union’s practices.

According to a blog post published in September by David Mulroney, President of St. Michael’s College, the investigation found that SMCSU’s finances were “primarily cash-based due to the union’s frequent club nights that take cash at the door and are often poorly accounted for.”

Mulroney announced his decision to restructure the college’s relationships with its three main student-associated groups — SMCSU, the St. Michael’s College Residence Council, and The Mike newspaper — and assign an academic advisor for each group.

In December, the union again found itself in hot water when a set of Snapchat videos involving current and former SMCSU council members surfaced on social media, which were widely called Islamophobic.

Recorded by the union’s then-Vice President Kevin Vando at a birthday party held at the residence of former SMCSU Vice-President Joseph Crimi, the videos show a former SMCSU councillor reading from a book titled Islam for Dummies and singing, “Would you be my Muslim boy?” to the tune of Estelle’s “American Boy.”

The backlash following the leak of the videos saw Vando resign and condemnation from the UTSU. SMCSU released a statement distancing itself from the actions of the party attendees, stressing that the event had not been sponsored or endorsed by the union. It also announced that it was implementing mandatory equity training for all its council members.

Days later, SMCSU announced in a Facebook post that it would be proroguing its activities until early 2017. SMCSU President Zachary Nixon also resigned, and it is unclear who is currently at the helm of SMCSU.

— Emaan Thaver


STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

Jordan Peterson 

U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson became the subject of international media attention after The Varsity reported on his YouTube lecture series criticizing “political correctness.”

In the first video, which he released on September 27, Peterson decries Bill C-16, a piece of federal legislation that would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to criminalize harassment and discrimination based on gender identity, as well as the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policies on discrimination based on gender identity. He also states in the video that he would decline a student’s request to be referred to by non-binary pronouns.

Several student groups on campus — including the UTSU, the Arts & Science Students’ Union, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union, and the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union — issued statements criticizing Peterson’s remarks. In addition, activists from the trans community organized a rally and teach-in on trans issues in front of Sidney Smith Hall.

A week after that rally, students supporting Jordan Peterson held their own “U of T Rally for Free Speech” on campus, which was punctuated by conflict and outbursts of violence after it was met with counter-protests. The student group University of Toronto Students in Support of Free Speech was founded and recognized by Ulife after the rally. Subsequently, U of T announced that some members of the trans community on campus had received threats of violence on social media.

On October 23, Arts & Science Dean David Cameron and Vice-Provost Academic Programs Sioban Nelson sent a letter to Peterson, requesting that he refer to students by their requested pronouns and refrain from making such public statements. Peterson harshly criticized these letters, saying that they were attempts to silence him by the institution.

The university hosted a forum on Bill C-16 on November 19. Peterson debated Law Professor and Director of the Bonham Centre of Sexual Diversity at University College Brenda Cossman, and University of British Columbia (UBC) Professor of Education and Senior Associate Dean, Administration, Faculty Affairs & Innovation Mary Bryson. Mayo Moran, a U of T Law Professor who also serves as the Provost of Trinity College, moderated the forum.

Peterson has received ample publicity following his YouTube lectures, and has received a major influx of patrons on Patreon, a fundraising platform, since he began speaking publicly about political correctness.

— Tom Yun

UBC prof Mary Bryson receives “violent threats” after debate on gender-neutral pronouns

UBC's Social Justice Institute posts petition in support of Bryson

UBC prof Mary Bryson receives “violent threats” after debate on gender-neutral pronouns

This article was original published in The Ubyssey.

Content warning: This article contains screenshots of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments sent to Professor Bryson.

VANCOUVER — Mary Bryson, a professor with the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Education, has received considerable online hate mail after their panel debate on academic freedom and the use of gendered pronouns with University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson.

The academic forum was held at U of T and discussed Bill C-16 — which adds gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act — and the gender provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Throughout the panel, Bryson criticized Peterson’s claims as damaging and having no scholarly basis. Peterson asserted that there is a natural gendered divide in society, and that political correctness is damaging — he argues that free speech should include his right to deny using gendered pronouns.

“The level of post C-16 debate hate mail and violent threats in my inbox is extraordinary,” said Bryson in a written statement to The Ubyssey.

A message sent to Mary Bryson after they participated in the U of T forum. SCREENSHOT COURTESY OF MARY BRYSON

Bryson also described a large number of aggressive and hateful comments, regarding subject matters of “violent transphobia, homophobia and misogyny,” posted on the live stream of the forum, social media and on an opinion article written by National Post journalist Christie Blatchford. The article criticized Bryson for their role in the forum and made claims regarding events that allegedly took place in Bryson’s classroom 25 years ago.

Some of the comments have since been removed due to inflammatory content.

Facebook comments regarding Bryson. SCREENSHOT COURTESY OF MARY BRYSON

Due to the level of personal and professional attacks that Bryson has been receiving, UBC’s Social Justice Institute has posted a petition on their website in support of Bryson. Since the petition’s posting on December 1, 125 people have signed it, including many UBC professors and other notables from the post-secondary academic community.

“We call upon UBC to declare its support of Dr. Mary Bryson … in light of recent attacks upon their person and scholarship,” reads the statement. “We urge the University to release a statement affirming Dr. Bryson’s academic freedom and human rights and through this affirmation, the academic freedom and human rights of all members of our community.”

Dr. Angela Redish, the provost of the university, has since released a statement expressing UBC’s support for Bryson given the National Post article and the hate that Bryson has received.

“The goals of Bill C-16 include ‘to extend protection against hate propaganda…to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression.’ This article encourages the reverse,” wrote Redish in the statement. She notes that the university aims to vigorously defend academic freedom and the right of its faculty members to engage in discourse, especially without being attacked for doing so.

“UBC is proud to have faculty members who engage on complex societal issues and it is deeply troubling to me that one of UBC’s faculty members should be singled out because of their participation in a debate on a controversial topic.”

Dr. Neil Guppy, who is the senior advisor to the provosts on issues of academic freedom, further responded on the behalf of the university.

“Being attacked for professional opinions that Dr. Bryson was offering at what I take to be an academic forum would certainly be an infringement of Dr. Bryson’s freedom in the sense of individuals trying to repress Dr. Bryson’s ability to speak clearly and strongly on important issues,” said Guppy.

Although Guppy can’t speak to the potential repercussions to the specific people that have directed hateful comments towards Bryson, he noted that UBC Campus Security has been contacted.

“My primary concern about participating in the C-16 debate was that I would be targeted by an extreme level of hate. That concern has been borne out to a degree that I had not anticipated,” wrote Bryson. “I have seen no evidence of public violent reprisals against Jordan Peterson. That’s interesting in its own right. It’s also interesting that the same people who are such ardent supporters of ‘free speech’ do not support my right to speak freely.”

Bryson noted that despite the extreme amount of hate, they have also received a large influx of positive messages from supporters both friends and strangers.

“Academic freedom is a cornerstone for the university, it’s something that we highly value and need to defend vigorously, we all need to defend vigorously, and this clearly was an infringement of her academic freedom and the kinds of attacks that have been levelled at her,” said Guppy.

Jordan Peterson has not publicly commented on this matter at this time.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to add a content warning. It has also been updated to correct a reference to Prof. Bryson.

Free speech rally devolves into conflict, outbursts of violence

Police intervene in rally that is punctuated by hateful speech, incidents of assault

Free speech rally devolves into conflict, outbursts of violence

Tension on campus continues a week after the teach-in and rally hosted by trans and non-binary activists in response to Professor Jordan Peterson’s statements on gender, and refusal to use gender neutral pronouns.

A so-called ‘rally for free speech’ was held yesterday afternoon outside of Sidney Smith Hall. The rally began with noise disruptions from protesters and ended with the presence of multiple police cruisers. The police appeared to have arrived to monitor the possibility of conflict between the rally’s attendees, and those protesting the event.

Peterson was invited to speak at the rally, as well as Lauren Southern, a commentator for The Rebel Media, a right-wing media organization, who interrupted last week’s teach-in and rally.

Speaking to The Varsity after his speech at the rally, Peterson said that he does not regret making the remarks and videos that set off the chain of events leading to the protest.

“I regret not formulating them more precisely, but the thing is, as I said before, when you first start to discuss something, you’re going to do it badly — it’s a sort of scattershot approach. I’m trying to be more precise, so no, I don’t regret it,” he said.

Members of the university’s trans and non-binary community blasted white noise through speakers as Peterson and Southern attempted to speak. Peterson eventually proceeded with his remarks without using a microphone.

Connor Johnston, a student who was present at the rally, described the scene: “They were blocking out the mics with white noise and like, trying to disrupt the whole thing. Someone tried to pull the cord a few times… They’ve been trying to get people from the other side to just talk, and they were just complaining that, instead of trying to sound out the noise, they should actually just come and give your own opinion.”

Qaiser Ali, one of the organizers of last week’s teach-in and rally who was present, told The Varsity that “the goal with the noise disruption, which is a tactic that has been used before, is not to suppress anyone’s free speech but rather not to take some speech lying down. These people were yelling homophobic slurs, transphobic slurs, referring to us as ‘things’ and ‘its’ — we were hoping to make that a little harder to hear.”

Some of the rally’s attendees provoked disruption. One man wearing a “Support Local 81” jacket — the Toronto chapter of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club — was isolated by police and later left the event to jeers. He spoke to The Varsity, saying that he was there to see Southern and Peterson because “some guy kinda told me that he didn’t want to use certain nouns or whatever.”

One attendee brought three dogs to the rally. Another man shouted, “We need more Michael Brown’s!” in reference to the 18-year old unarmed Black man who was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.

There were a number of incidents of assault at the rally. One man, who asked to only be identified as Bryan, told The Varsity, “A guy came up to me and tried to grab my binder, but I wouldn’t let it go, so he pushed me. He then put his hands around my neck until Campus Police came and separated us.”

Johnston also told The Varsity that there was “a small brawl” involving Southern and spectators, and Southern’s microphone was taken away.

Partway through the rally, the fire alarm was pulled inside Sidney Smith Hall, causing students to evacuate the building and onto the street until the Fire Department came and gave the all clear.

The Black Liberation Collective (BLC) was also present at the event, and engaged in a number of interactions with free speech activists. Before attending the rally, the group held a demonstration at the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU).

Roxane, a student who was protesting the rally as an independent dissenter, shared her feelings on the intentions of the rally. “I think [it was about] holding up standards of white supremacy and I think that a lot of arguments were steeped in fear, which was really concerning for me,” she said. “I think that this forum dissolved really quickly into speaking to people’s fear and vulgarities rather than articulating themselves and articulating their arguments.”

The rally came to a close when the audio equipment failed and police intervened in apparent escalating conflict.

With files from Jaren Kerr

Editor’s note: A statement that rally attendees wore a German Iron Eagle, which is associated with Nazism, has been removed following reader input that it may have been mistaken for a different cultural symbol. The Varsity regrets the oversight.

Teach-in and rally held in response to Jordan Peterson’s comments on gender

Event at Sid Smith meant to educate U of T community

Teach-in and rally held in response to Jordan Peterson’s comments on gender

Activists from U of T and  the wider Toronto community held a teach-in and rally outside Sidney Smith Hall on Wednesday in response to psychology professor Jordan Peterson’s comments on non-binary gender identities.

“Peterson is a high-profile academic and he has this huge platform on which he is spreading misinformation to people who are probably just misinformed about trans things,” said Cassandra Williams, a trans woman and Vice President University Affairs of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, who was also one of the event’s organizers.

“That was part of the reason why folks wanted to organize to spread information, and why we were giving out some basic 101 information about trans folks and non-binary folks,” she explained.

Peterson released a video lecture on YouTube last week challenging the language used in Bill C-16 and the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s protections against discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender identity. In the video, Peterson also criticized the use of non-binary pronouns. On Monday, Peterson released a second video lecture on YouTube criticizing what he calls “compulsory political education” at U of T.

The teach-in and rally, which was attended by over 100 people, was held to educate students and the community at large about trans and non-binary issues, with students and activists alike speaking on subjects ranging from human rights to their personal experiences to Peterson’s remarks.

Peterson’s second video lecture referred to the university’s consultation with the Black Liberation Collective (BLC) on holding mandatory anti-racial bias training. The BLC was present at the event Wednesday, and the contributions of trans and non-binary people of colour were prioritized.

More to come.