A newly-formed student group at Western University hopes bringing a polarizing University of Toronto professor to campus will create a discussion forum about free speech.
Professor Jordan Peterson has garnered attention for refusing to use gender neutral pronouns in the classroom, and for YouTube videos that criticize Bill C-16 — which is legislation to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.
“I think there’s a culture specifically on college campuses where any offensive speech — any speech that’s taken offence to — is speech that shouldn’t be spoken.
“I think that Jordan Peterson’s opinions are provocative, and I think they’re interesting, and I think for that reason, some people would rather that he didn’t speak at all,” explained Kyle Maresky, president of the group that invited Peterson to campus named Young Canadians in Action.
Peterson’s opinions have sparked intense and divided dialogue. Some say he’s a champion of free speech, while others believe he’s creating an unsafe place for students in his classroom by refusing to use pronouns like “ze” when someone wishes to be called something other than “he” or “she”.
Western University spokesperson Keith Marnoch says the talk has gone through a security assessment, and that Young Canadians in Action will be footing a security bill for Saturday’s sold out event, pegged at around $1,200.
“This speaker has previously generated certain reactions, we try to sort of figure out what’s best, so a security assessment would take place for any event on campus, be it a concert, a lecture, sports events,” Marnoch said.
“There’s been some overblown concerns in the media that the school is trying to silence us,” said Maresky, when asked about the security fee.
“I would just say that the administration here and Young Canadians in Action are working together strategically and financially, just to make sure the event goes over smoothly.”
Peterson spoke at an event at the University of Toronto last month, which was shut down by police after protests and the pulling of a fire alarm.
“I’m not sure exactly what to expect,” said Maresky.
“Based on how students in Canada have reacted to his other speaking events at U of T specifically, I think there’s a good probability that there might be some sort of protest. All I can say is that I hope anyone who disagrees with him simply comes out, and voices their opinions.”