Freedom of Speech on Campus

November 24, 2017

Dear Friends,


During the Conservative Leadership Campaign last spring, Leader Andrew Scheer spoke of a “troubling trend” toward the stifling of free speech on Canada’s university campuses.


“Campuses are no longer the bastions of free speech that they once were,” said Scheer.


In a visceral manner, we were reminded this week how correct Scheer is.


A disturbing audio recording of a disciplinary hearing at Wilfred Laurier University was leaked.


In the recording, Teaching Assistant Lindsay Shepherd, 22, was berated by three senior faculty members, led by Professor Nathan Rambukkana, for promoting “transphobia” and “creating a toxic climate” for students in a first-year class she was teaching.


Why were the faculty members so upset at Ms. Shepherd? As part of a class on pronoun usage in English, she had shown a 3 minute video of a televised debate featuring University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson discussing non-standard transgender pronouns and the enforced use of those pronouns in the Liberals Bill C-16.


The University’s issue with Shepard was that she presented the debate fairly and without taking sides, allowing her students to discuss without imposing her beliefs on them - precisely what a professor at a university should do in those circumstances.


To Rambukkana, however, that was simply not acceptable.


“This is like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler," he said to Shepherd.


This is an appalling example of Universities imposing their ideology on their students. Laurier bullied a young woman who simply wished to engage her students in a discussion.


To her credit, Shepherd refused to back down.


“I don’t see how someone would rationally think it was threatening. I could see how it might challenge their existing ideas, but for me that’s the spirit of the university, challenging the ideas that you already have,” she said.


“The thing is, can you shield people from those ideas? Am I supposed to comfort them and make sure they are insulated away from this? … Because to me, that is so against what a university is about.”


Laurier University attacked not only Ms. Shepherd, but the very idea of freedom of speech and intellectual curiosity. Universities are the very institutions where debate ought to happen.


Instead, it would appear Laurier would rather indoctrinate.


The President of Laurier released a weak apology to Lindsay Shepherd that made only a passing mention of freedom of speech.


Meanwhile, the Liberal Government refused to condemn fully this attack on intellectual freedom, instead hiding behind flowery language on diversity.


Andrew Scheer, however, minced no words: “To think that we’ve gotten to the point in Canada where a university would have an inquisition on a young grad student, and make comparisons to Hitler, to bully her, to tell her that she committed violence… is ridiculous. I think it’s a very sad state of affairs.”


There is an irony in all of this – Lindsay Shepherd disagreed with Jordan Peterson. It is admirable that she stood her intellectual ground on principle alone.


I hope this information has been of interest to you.


Have a great weekend everyone.