The left is alienating its allies by shutting down free speech

Aug 29, 2017 by

by Deborah W Soh, CBC:

So-called progressives celebrated last week after Ryerson cancelled an event featuring controversial speakers.

Earlier this month, in an ironic but somehow all too predictable turn of events, Ryerson University announced that it would be cancelling its event called “The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses.”

The event was to be held last Tuesday and panel members included Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto professor who opposes Bill C-16’s mandate for gender-neutral pronouns, Gad Saad, an evolutionary behavioural scientist at Concordia University, Oren Amitay, a clinical psychologist and Ryerson University sessional lecturer and Faith Goldy, formerly of Canada’s Rebel Media.

Ryerson cited safety concerns as the reason for shutting the event down, saying in a statement that “Ryerson is not equipped to provide the necessary level of public safety for the event to go forward.” Safety concerns have obviously been heightened in the wake of the events in Charlottesville earlier this month, when a car allegedly driven by 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. ran into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally, killing one.

Safety or pressure?

But the “safety” concern is a dubious one, considering that Sarina Singh, organizer of the Ryerson event and an alum of the university, said in an email that far-left groups including No Fascist T.O. had been harassing Ryerson’s administration to cancel the event, calling the panel speakers “Nazis.” Once the event had officially been cancelled, the group’s “anti-fascism” rally turned into a celebration on Ryerson’s campus.

Even if safety was and is a real concern, a university should make it its mission to ensure that sufficient security personnel are on hand to make sure controversial events can proceed as scheduled. What are academic institutions for, after all, if not to challenge minds and host rigorous debates on contentious issues?

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