TORONTO – A former Ontario teaching assistant entangled in a defamation lawsuit filed against her professors by controversial author Jordan Peterson says she had little choice but to record a conversation that spurred the legal battle.
Two university professors being sued by Peterson launched a third-party claim late last year alleging Lindsay Shepherd was responsible for recording and disseminating a private conversation during a disciplinary meeting in which they discussed the author.
Nathan Rambukkana and Herbert Pimlott, who teach at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., maintain their comments about Peterson were not defamatory but argue they could not have known the conversation with Shepherd would be shared outside the meeting.
In their claim, Pimlott and Rambukkana argue Shepherd had “power and control” over the recording and its distribution, and thus should be the one on the hook if the court find Peterson suffered any damages or injuries.
But in a statement of defence filed last month, Shepherd says the pair should have foreseen that she would record the disciplinary proceedings to protect herself.
VIDEO: Jordan Peterson sues Wilfred Laurier University after T.A. criticized for showing YouTube clip of him
Shepherd argues that even if she hadn’t done so, it’s likely the contents of the meeting would have come to light through word of mouth or a formal complaint to the university.
Peterson’s suit and the third-party claim centre on a November 2017 meeting between the professors, a Laurier staff member and Shepherd, who at the time was a teaching assistant in Rambukkana’s communications class.
None of the claims made by the various parties have been proven in court.
In his suit, Peterson said the disciplinary meeting was called after Shepherd showed students an excerpt of a TVOntario broadcast in which Peterson defends his opposition to gender-neutral pronouns.
The University of Toronto professor, whose controversial views on free speech have drawn international attention, claims the professors and staff member compared him to Adolf Hitler and called him a “charlatan” during the meeting.
VIDEO: Laurier clears teaching assistant after controversy
Shepherd later provided her recording of the meeting to media outlets.
“Recording the meeting and sharing the contents of that recording was the only reasonable and effective strategy left open to Shepherd and was eminently foreseeable as a possibility under the circumstances,” her claim argues.
“Irrespective of the recording, Shepherd would have shared the content of this meeting, not for the purpose of spreading the defamation against Peterson, but rather to resist the defendants’ attempt to suppress and eliminate free debate, free speech … at the university.”
Shepherd also claims the professors did not impose any restrictions on recording or sharing the contents of the meeting.
Shepherd and Peterson have also each filed lawsuits against the university. Wilfrid Laurier University has said it will challenge both their claims.
VIDEO: Wilfrid Laurier TA says University censored her for showing clip on gender pronouns