Open letter petitions U of T to rescind Faith Goldy’s student leadership award

Letter slams ex-Rebel Media host’s support for white supremacist goals

Open letter petitions U of T to rescind Faith Goldy’s student leadership award

An open letter signed by 82 Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award recipients spanning the past 21 years is calling on the University of Toronto Alumni Association (UTAA) to rescind the award that far-right activist and former Rebel Media host Faith Goldy received as a student.

Recipients of the Cressy Awards have been selected every year by the UTAA and the Division of University Advancement since 1994.

The award recognizes students in their graduating year for involvement in extracurricular activities and is named after former city councillor and former U of T Vice-President of Development and University Relations Gordon Cressy.

Goldy, who at the time went by Faith Goldy-Bazos and was a student enrolled at Trinity College, was awarded the Cressy Award in 2012 for her involvement with the Association of Political Science Students.

Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) Student Advisor Gavin Nowlan and former ASSU President Abdullah Shihipar are organizing the petition. Nowlan told The Varsity that he sent the letter through campus mail on the morning of March 19.

“It seemed incongruous that one of the awards that highlights student leadership and work in the community has been awarded to someone who has views that, in our mind, are so far from the views of the University of Toronto,” said Nowlan.

Part of the letter states that Goldy has “openly expressed support and advocated for the goals of the white nationalist movement.”

During her time at Rebel Media, Goldy has expressed support for the white genocide conspiracy theory, which has roots in the white supremacist movement, as well as a “crusade” against Muslims.

In an interview, she also recited and defended the ‘14 Words,’ a slogan commonly used in the white supremacist movement.

The letter also notes that Goldy “has appeared as a supportive guest on white supremacist media.”

In August 2017, Goldy appeared on a podcast affiliated with the Daily Stormer, an online neo-Nazi media outlet. She was subsequently fired from Rebel Media for that interview.

The award’s namesake has also expressed support for the petition. Cressy told Canadaland that the signatories, “in many ways represent what the Cressy award is all about.”

U of T Interim Director of Media Relations Elizabeth Church said on March 19 that the university had not yet received the petition, but would give it “thoughtful consideration” once received. She also told The Varsity that there was no precedent for a Cressy Award recipient, or a recipient of any similar awards, being stripped of their honour.

On March 26, UTAA President Scott MacKendrick and Assistant VP, Alumni Relations Barbara Dick released a letter in response to the petition. In the letter, MacKendrick and Dick thanked Nowlan for brining the petition to their attention and condemned hatred, but declined to rescind Goldy’s award.

“The candidates’ files are judged according to what they have contributed at the time of the award, on the basis of demonstrated evidence as judged by a rigorous process,” the letter reads. “Accordingly, it would be inappropriate to rescind the award granted to Ms. Goldy-Bazos in 2012.”

The UTAA’s letter also condemned hatred and bigotry in general terms, but did not directly address the controversy surrounding Goldy specifically. Nowlan expressed disappointment in the UTAA’s response.

“I can understand their reluctance to set a precedent in taking an award away from an alumnus for their actions after their time at U of T, but I am saddened to see that the University didn’t take this opportunity –beyond their boilerplate response, to clearly state that Ms. Goldy’s views are anathema to the University of Toronto,” he said in an email to The Varsity.

Goldy did not respond to The Varsity’s inquiries, but tweeted, “Typical Marxist tricks! Rewrite history to fit your ideology” in response to the petition.

The day after the letter was sent, Goldy was at Wilfrid Laurier University speaking at an event held by a student group, which was disrupted after protesters pulled a fire alarm.

Editor’s Note (March 27): This article has been updated to include the UTAA’s letter in response to the petition, as well as Nowlan’s response the letter. 

On the importance of The Rebel Media

The right-wing media outlet resembles activist movements across the political spectrum — and serves an important purpose in doing so

On the importance of The Rebel Media

Yell as loudly as you can and perhaps it’ll make a difference — this model of resistance has proven popular with the political left, as is evident looking at activist movements over the past 20 years. And from civil rights to environmental legislation, this model of resistance has proven effective. The political right in Canada does not have this same reputation — rather, the political right has been perceived to be more concerned with their own money than with grassroots activism.

The Rebel Media, a fiercely conservative online platform based out of Toronto, breaks this mould. It is loud, reader-funded, and blunt about its beliefs — a perfect model of leftist grassroots activism. It covers issues of what’s considered to be political correctness on university campuses, provides a platform for pro-life perspectives, and comments on perceived failures of the current Liberal government. It is marked by a desire to reject the status quo of what it sees as an overwhelmingly left-wing media landscape.

The Rebel’s provocative and often offensive content has led some to question its purpose, and ultimately whether it deserves to exist in the first place — podcasts by Canadaland and Safe Space have expressed these sentiments. Key arguments against The Rebel being published are that it is more activism than journalism, and that the opinions it publishes are bigoted. 

While I am not here to dispute either of those points, we ought to consider the following: if The Rebel were a leftist organization, would there be a problem? The Rebel shares similarities to many other media organizations that hold oppositional political sentiments, and it serves an important purpose in Canadian media and society.

The Rebel has never touted itself as a news organization pursuing fair, ‘objective’ reporting. In fact, the description on their website states, “We don’t just report the news, we participate in it.” This is not a foreign model to Canadian media; outlets such as The Dominion and This Magazine describe themselves as representatives of the people who support them and as agitators with radical roots, respectively.

Moreover, both This and The Dominion were created to fight a perceived status quo. They created outlets that explored the issues they cared about, issues that were ineffectively covered by traditional media outlets. 

Similar to activism of the left, The Rebel has brought together the voices of those on the fringe. In the ’70s, feminism brought together groups of people who were oppressed by a traditional patriarchal society. However, bringing together those individuals revealed a plethora of intersectionalities that inevitably created inner conflict. Feminism was not a big tent movement, although it provided solidarity among many people. While aspects such as reproductive rights and equal pay became topics of solidarity among all factions, movements such as womanism emerged due to feminism’s inability to represent all women.

Similarly, after the closure of the Sun News Network, The Rebel began as an outlet for individuals who believed there were not enough conservative voices in media. The organization promised that it would incorporate the ideas of its audience into its daily content and avoid the pitfalls of traditional media. This rhetoric is similar to movements on the left: a cry for inclusion, whatever the cost, and a desire to be seen, regardless of the response.

Political philosopher John Stuart Mill once argued that in a free society, all should have a right to speak. Permitting all members of society to voice their opinions freely prevents the harm that would result from what Mill referred to as the “tyranny of the majority” — a situation in which, due to a lack of dissidence and lack of protection for the few who dissent, the majority of citizens can actively oppress those who do not subscribe to their beliefs. ‘Bad’ opinions will have the chance to be refuted so long as the right to speak is secured for everyone.

A cry like this attracts all types of characters. The feminist movement was largely funded by middle-class white women, ostracizing minorities and lower classes. While the intentions of a movement may be virtuous, those who fund these movements may sway its goals. Whether this is the case for The Rebel can be disputed, but what is clear is that its movement has exposed a pocket of Canada that is not habitually represented.

Regardless of its current state, one thing is certain about The Rebel: the organization has stayed true to its desire to be the voice for the community of readers and writers to which it caters. In the spirit of John Stuart Mill, I would encourage those who disagree with the content presented by The Rebel — or any other media outlet — to take the time to respond to it. Actively voicing your dissent places you within the conversation and allows you to participate in the marketplace of ideas that Mill advocated for. To say The Rebel should not exist, however, is to say that not all people should have a voice — and that is antithetical to the values of a liberal democracy.

Gabrielle Warren is an incoming third-year student at Trinity College studying Political Science.

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
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.