We All Pay The Price For Runaway Political Correctness On Campus

By Christine Van Geyn
HuffPost Canada Media
Dec 01, 2016

Free speech is under fire on Canadian campuses.

jordan petrson

At the University of Toronto, professor Jordan Peterson has caused an uproar on campus because of his refusal to use gender neutral pronouns like "ze" and "hir." Some people claim that professor Jordan Peterson is under attack because his speech is very controversial and wrong.

But the reality is that every single person who wants to engage in free expression on university must deal with the campus thought police, first.

The Canadian Taxpayer Federation's (CTF) student initiative, Generation Screwed, which deals with government debt and fiscal issues, has had its own share of challenges.

What's so controversial and wrong about talking about government debt? Nothing much. Yet Generation Screwed has similarly faced censorship and rules dreamed up by busy-body student organizers.

The CTF debt clock was taken across Canada this summer and fall, but the only place the debt clock has ever encountered problems is on campuses. Within five minutes of bringing the clock onto campus at Laval in Quebec, for example, Generation Screwed and the debt clock were successfully kicked off campus for engaging in "unsanctioned activism."

Generation Screwed has also had issues when it comes to language. When the club sought approval from the student union at Guelph, it was told that it may have to change its name, because the word "screwed" might be considered "oppressive." The club didn't end up having to change the name, but the idea that a club coordinator can reject groups simply because of their name is worrisome.

The very idea of "sanctioned" and "unsanctioned" activism -- or policing potentially "offensive" language on behalf of some imagined victim -- is the stuff of an Orwellian nightmare.

And it's happening on campuses all over Canada.

At Mount Royal University in Calgary, there was a video published of one student berating another student for wearing a Donald Trump "Make America Great Again" hat. She called the hat "hate language" and said "you've gotta take the hat off." She told the other student that if he didn't remove his hat, she would have the president of the university come and speak with him.

She gave a statement after the video went viral, saying "I have diverse friends (culturally and sexually) who would drop a class if the person wearing the hat was sitting in the room with them, because they would feel unsafe."

Again -- standing up for imagined victims by shutting down the speech of others.

A more recent example is from Bishop's University in Nova Scotia.

The prominent criminal trial lawyer Marie Henein is scheduled to speak on campus. Ms. Henein represented Jian Ghomeshi in his trial for sexual assault and choking. She is considered to be one of the best criminal lawyers in Toronto, indeed, in Canada. And as a lawyer with her own firm she's also an entrepreneur. Hers should be an inspiring story of success, exactly the kind that should be told on university campuses.

But the student newspaper at St. Francis Xavier, where the event was scheduled to be livestreamed, published a commentary saying that Henein shouldn't have been invited because she has represented rapists (like pretty much all experienced criminal defence lawyers). Her presence on campus may make victims of sexual violence feel unsafe, and it would be a "disservice" to students to have her on campus.

Apparently, students interested in criminal law at Bishop's and St. FX should only aspire to be crown attorneys and not defence counsel.

This is a truly sad development.

The real the disservice here is when institutions make it impossible to hear diverse viewpoints when the very purpose of the institutions is to educate.

It's a disservice to coddle students and treat them as if they are too delicate to hear a message with which they disagree.

And it's a disservice to send away prominent, accomplished guest speakers because you think others shouldn't hear what they have to say. Because of course, if you don't want to hear it, you can choose not to attend.

And to those who say this only applies to people who are really doing something very controversial, shocking or wrong, the fact is that no matter how benign your topic -- government debt, for example -- there's almost always going to be someone who doesn't agree. If we allow them to silence the Jordan Petersons of the world, soon they will try to silence you.

As professor Peterson said, "I've been denounced, and you're next."