By Noushin Ziafati
Ryerson University has cancelled a panel discussion about “the pressing issue of the stifling of free speech on university campuses” due to safety concerns.
The panel, which was titled “The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses”, was scheduled to take place on Aug. 22 and the speakers included University of Toronto (U of T) professor Jordan Peterson and Rebel Media’s Faith Goldy.
Ryerson released a statement on Wednesday citing the recent rally and counter protests in Charlottesville, VA as a factor in their decision to cancel the event.
“After a thorough security review, the University has concluded that Ryerson is not equipped to provide the necessary level of public safety for the event to go forward, particularly given the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. For that reason, we have told the organizers that Ryerson will no longer provide a room for their event,” read Ryerson’s statement.
On the weekend white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members clashed with counter protesters in the streets which led to a car driving into a crowd killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio was charged with second-degree murder.
“There is often tension at universities resulting from our commitment to be a place for free speech and our commitment to be a place that is civil, safe, and welcoming. At this time, Ryerson University is prioritizing campus safety,” the statement reads.
U of T psychology professor Peterson has become a controversial advocate of free speech, and he is known for rejecting the use of gender neutral pronouns, as well as announcing his opposition to Bill C-16, federal legislation that seeks to add gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.
Goldy is a Canadian writer and political commentator at Rebel Media. She attended the protests in Charlottesville and caught the car plowing into the crowd while she was live-streaming.
In addition to Peterson and Goldy, the other panelists scheduled to speak were Gad Saad, a marketing professor and Concordia University’s Research Chair in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences and Darwinian Consumption, and Oren Amitay, a clinical psychologist and media consultant.
Amitay said he understands Ryerson’s reasoning behind cancelling the panel discussion.
“I do not begrudge Ryerson for their decision. I understand that they have to take into consideration the safety and security of people and of buildings, and you know, after what happened in Charlottesville, I can understand why they would be concerned,” he said.
However, he added that the creation of a Facebook event page for a planned rally against the panel discussion, called “No Fascists in Our City!” is a rejection of “critical thinking.”
In the description of the “No Fascists in Our City!” Facebook event page, it is written: “Everyone!!! We got this shut down! Let’s CELEBRATE!” in regards to the panel’s cancellation.
The Facebook page says the organizers will still host an “anti-fascist rally” on Aug. 22 on Ryerson campus because “the fight is not over.”
The cancellation comes after U of T’s statement that The Canadian Nationalist Party, a white nationalist organization, wouldn’t be allowed to hold a rally on the university’s campus next month. The event was set to take place on Sept. 14 where there would discussion on “the nationalist movement in Canada.”