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Unsatisfied with PM’s answer, Blanchet vows to press Trudeau on Ottawa prof’s use of slur

Click to play video 'Bloc leader defends use of N-word in education context' Bloc leader defends use of N-word in education context
Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet said on Thursday that the use of the N-word in the context of education and learning is not a gesture of prejudice against Black people. His comments come after a complaint was filed when a professor at the University of Ottawa used the term in a gender and art class – Oct 22, 2020

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet says he plans to ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later today for his position on the suspension of a professor who used a derogatory word for Black people in class.

“We all need to be conscious of the power of our words.,” Trudeau said Wednesday in the House of Commons.

“We support respect for others and listening to communities. Our priority is to always take real action to combat racism in all its forms.”

Blanchet said Thursday he wasn’t satisfied with that response and wants to see if Trudeau will support the University of Ottawa professor.

Read more: University should have defended professor in debate over offensive language, says Legault

Verushka Lieutenant-Duval has been at the centre of a controversy for using the notorious word as part of an academic course.

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She has apologized for using the term during a class discussion, but not before the university suspended her.

Blanchet says those subject to hateful words deserve compassion and support, but using the term in an educational context isn’t prejudicial.

Asked what he would say to those who believe otherwise, Blanchet said: “I have to say that you have very rightfully expressed your sensibility and opinion, which I respect absolutely, but which I do not share.”

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Trudeau isn’t expected to be in the House of Commons during Thursday afternoon’s question period, with his schedule showing other, digital engagements.

The issue has been of particular interest in Quebec where provincial politicians have come to Lieutenant-Duval’s defence. So have Bloc Quebecois MPs on Parliament Hill.

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On Wednesday, University of Ottawa president and vice-chancellor Jacques Fremont issued an appeal for calm amid rising tensions between faculty and students over the incident, saying the decision to remove Lieutenant-Duval from the classroom was not taken arbitrarily, nor was her academic freedom threatened at any point.

“We are currently witnessing a disagreement between two diametrically opposed camps attacking each other through various media channels. In such a hostile and disrespectful environment, little progress can be made,” Fremont wrote.

Read more: More than 1,300 University of Ottawa support staff begin strike

“The more tension we have around these social issues, the more radicalized and polarized the discourse becomes and the more difficult it is to find a viable way forward.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole weighed in earlier Thursday, saying his party believes university campuses should have freedom of speech and healthy debate, noting the importance of doing with respect for professors and students.

He said a similar context of respect was needed if ever the offensive word is to be used under the umbrella of academic freedom, pointing to literary works from a different era.

“The discussions about racism lately have been good in raising awareness of inequalities and unacceptable outcomes,” O’Toole said.

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“So how do you find that balance? I think universities are trying to look at that and there should be respect as part of that process.”

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