Details for the upcoming U of T-hosted debate on free speech and Bill C-16 featuring Psychology Professor Jordan Peterson have been determined.
Peterson posted on Twitter that on November 19 at 9:30 am he will be debating Brenda Cossman, U of T Law Professor and Director of the Bonham Centre of Sexual Diversity at University College, and Mary Bryson, Senior Associate Dean, Administration, Faculty Affairs & Innovation, and Professor at the Department of Language and Literacy, and Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia. Trinity College Provost and U of T Law Professor Mayo Moran will moderate.
Peterson also tweeted that he will be livestreaming the debate through his personal YouTube channel. The location of the debate was not announced by the time of publishing.
The Queer Caucus of CUPE 3902, the union representing “7,000 sessional lecturers, TAs, and other contract instructional staff at U of T,” released an open letter on November 4 calling for a boycott of the upcoming debate.
The letter states that “human rights are not up for debate.”
The letter also says that there is no room for discussion regarding some of Peterson’s statements about gender. “Neither Peterson’s views about race and gender nor his understandings of the Canadian Human Rights Act and Bill C-16 constitute valid forms of academic debate. Transgender people are not, as he claims, ‘a coterie of left-wing ideologues.’ We are human beings who seek fair opportunities,” a portion of the letter reads.
Official information about the debate is forthcoming but as a release from the university says, “It is expected that speakers at the forum, to be hosted by the Faculty of Arts & Science, would include Professor Jordan Peterson.”
Peterson has risen to public notoriety following the release of a number of YouTube lectures where he challenges ‘political correctness’, which he views as a threat to free speech. One of Peterson’s lectures focused on his opposition Bill C-16, which would prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and expression. Another lecture criticized the University of Toronto’s undertaking for anti-racism training.
In a U of T News interview, David Cameron, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, clarifies the need for a discussion. He says, “In such polarized circumstances, it is appropriate that the university sponsor a forum, which aims to permit — in an academic setting — the rational examination of the various views raised by this controversy.”
Peterson addressed the details of a forum in a November 5 YouTube video. Peterson reveals that the university was not going to allow the debate to go forward if he would not use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to people if asked to do so.
In the video, Peterson said the request was “perverse in some sense that, in this debate, the debate would begin with a significant restriction on what [he was] allowed to say.”
“Make no mistake about it, this is what’s happened: the university has drawn the lines, and they have decided that if they have to support political correctness/social justice Neo-Marxism, or freedom of speech, then they are going to pick the former, and not the latter,” he said in the video.
The 3902 Queer Caucus’ letter also questions whether such a forum could be safely held, “given the disastrous outcome of the October 11 ‘free speech rally’ held by Peterson and his supporters.” It urges members of the community to stand in solidarity by boycotting the debate and express their disappointment with David Cameron via email.
The university was unable to give comment on the status of the free speech forum. U of T Director of Media Relations Althea Blackburn-Evans told The Varsity that “the details have yet to be fully finalized; I’m hoping we can announce Monday.”
Neither Peterson nor the CUPE 3902 Queer Caucus responded to The Varsity’s request for comment.