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In November, an incident regarding freedom of speech on campus took place at Ontario’s Wilfrid Laurier University that galvanized the attention of Canadians and of those with an interest in this subject beyond our borders.
A graduate student in the field of Communications, Lindsay Shepherd, used a short segment in class from a debate on TVOntario’s nightly issues show, The Agenda, to illustrate to her students how linguistic terminology can become contested terrain in the realm of ideas. The presenting issue was freedom of speech; the vehicle for debate was the use of transgender pronouns. The segment Shepherd showed – without either approval or condemnation - included forceful pushback against “compelled speech” by Jordan Peterson, a University of Toronto professor whose publicly avowed refusal to use constructed gender pronouns has in the past 18 months rocketed him, via a tsunami of vlogs and public appearances, from virtual obscurity outside the academy to continental celebrity.
In short order Shepherd was summoned to a meeting with her supervisor, her department head and the director of WLU’s Gendered and Sexual Violence and Support program. What happened at that meeting – more like a Star Chamber interrogation – would have fallen into the historical oubliette, except for the fact that Shepherd recorded it and shared it with the media.
Ordinary Canadians who listened to this recording were stupefied at the overt intimidation and condemnation Shepherd was subjected to, including accusations of “transphobia,” a comparison of Peterson to Hitler and for good measure a sprinkling of demonizing “racism” and “ “white supremacist” to ensure the message took hold. All because she adopted a perspective of neutrality in presenting conflicting opinions to her class so that they could freely discuss the issue without her influence. This was an intolerable stance for her left-wing superiors.:snip:

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