WATERLOO, Ontario(LifeSiteNews) – Communications student Lindsay Shepherd has committed a thought crime: she presented students with opposed points of view in an evenhanded fashion.
Shepherd, 22, is an MA student at Waterloo’s Wilfrid Laurier University. She is teaching assistant for a class called “Canadian Communication in Context.” A few weeks ago, as part of a lecture on gendered language, Shepherd showed a 5 minute clip of a debate between Nicholas Matte, a professor of Transgender Studies, and University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson.
For this Shepherd was called into a meeting with Adria Joel, the university’s acting manager of its “Gendered Violence Prevention and Support” office, program coordinator Herbert Pimlott and an assistant professor named Nathan Rambukkana. Joel and Rambukkana accused Shepherd of violating the Canadian Human Rights Code and the university’s Gendered and Sexual Violence policy. Joel told Shepherd that she had caused “harm and violence” to “trans folk” by presenting Peterson’s position that the government should not force Canadians to use recently coined pronouns to describe transgender people.
It is legal in Ontario for someone to record a conversation without the knowledge of all parties if the recorder is one of them. Shepherd recorded her meeting with Joel, Pimlott and Rambukkana. Excerpts from the alleged recording were made available to the public by Canada’s Global News.
In the recordings, Shepherd is told that her choice to air the Peterson clip, which was taken from a mild-mannered talk show on Ontario’s public television station, could be seen as “threatening.”
“If you’re presenting something like this, you have to think about the … teaching climate that you’re creating,” Rambukkana tells her. “These arguments are counter to the Canadian Human Rights Code … ever since [Bill C-16] passed, it is discriminatory to be targeting someone due to their gender identity or gender expression. So bringing something like that up in class, not critically—.”
“It was critical,” Shepherd interrupts. “I introduced it critically…”
“How so?” demands Rambukkana.
“Like I said, it was in the spirit of debate.”
But that wasn’t good enough for Rambukkana, who said Shepherd should have presented Peterson’s view as a “problematic idea that we want to unpack.”
“But that’s taking sides,” Shepherd argues. She is adamant that she had not taken Peterson’s side in the debate, but merely presented both arguments. In fact, she says she disagrees with Peterson’s position.
“I understand your … positionality,” says Rambukkana. “But the reality is that it’s created a toxic climate for some of the students.”
“How many?” Shepherd asks. “Who? How many? One? I have no concept of how many people complained … What their complaint was… You haven’t shown me the complaint.”
“I understand that this is upsetting,” says the assistant professor, “but there are also confidentiality matters…”
“The number of people is confidential?”
The academics’ and administrator’s remarks reveal that they believe Shepherd has perpetrated a hate crime against transgendered students. She was told, for example, “You’re perfectly welcome to your own opinion, but when you’re bringing it into the context of the classroom, that can become problematic and that … creates an unsafe learning environment.“
“But when they leave the university, they’re going to be exposed to these ideas, so I don’t see how I’m doing a disservice to the class by exposing them to ideas that are really out there,” says Shepherd, breaking into tears. “And I’m sorry I’m crying. I’m stressed out because this to me is so wrong, so wrong.”
At this point Ms Joel breaks in to invoke the Wilfrid Laurier University “Gendered and Sexual Violence” policy, which clearly forbids targeting people because of their gender, including transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia.
“What I have a problem with is, I didn’t target anybody,” says Shepherd. “Who did I target?”
“Trans folks,” mutters Joel.
“How? By telling them ideas that are really out there? By telling them that? By telling them? Really?”
“It’s not just telling them,” say Rambukkana. “In legitimizing this as a valid perspective, as if this is another valid perspective…”
“At a university all perspectives are valid,” she exclaims.
“That’s not necessarily true, Lindsay,” says the assistant professor.
He later elaborates: “This is like neutrally playing a speech like Hitler or Milo Yiannopoulos of Gamergate.”
“What’s kind of funny is that I disagree with Jordan Peterson,” Shepherd weeps. “I disagree. But you guys seem to think that I’m pro-Jordan Peterson, or something.”
Near the end of the recording, when Shepherd again insists that she remained neutral in presenting the clip, one of the administrators responded: “That’s kind of the problem.”
Shepherd repeated to Global News that she had presented the debate between Peterson and Nicholas Matte neutrally. “I wanted to hear all opinions,” she said. “And the thing is, when you start off with ‘This guy sucks, don’t believe anything he says’, there are people right there [in class] who won’t say anything now. You’ve silenced them because they’re now not willing to say what they wanted to say.”
Jordan Peterson tweeted his support for the student. “To call this scandalous is barely to scratch the surface,” he wrote. He later added, “This is precisely why I opposed Bill C-16.”
In her column on the controversy, Christie Blatchford of the National Post reported that Shepherd is thinking of leaving Wilfred Laurier University.
Bill C-16, which became law in June 2017, added “gender expression” and “gender identity” to Canada’s Human Rights Code and to the Criminal Code’s hate crime section.
Critics have warned that under Bill C-16, Canadians who deny gender theory could be charged with hate crimes, fined, jailed, and compelled to undergo anti-bias training.
Jordan Peterson was one of the foremost opponents to the Bill. He told the Senate committee that Bill C-16 is an unprecedented threat to freedom of expression and codifies a spurious ideology of gender identity in law. He said he thinks “ideologues” are “using unsuspecting and sometimes complicit members of the so-called transgender community to push their ideological vanguard forward.”
“The fact that it’s potentially illegal for me not to participate in that is something that I think is absolutely dreadful,” he said. “It puts a shudder in my heart as a Canadian that we could even possibly be in a situation like that.”