With protesters present both inside and outside of Grant Hall, Jordan Peterson was quick to address the disruptions to Monday’s lecture.
“Mark my words, that’s the sound of barbarians pounding at the gates,” Peterson told the audience.
Titled “The Rising Tide of Compelled Speech in Canada,” this Liberty Lecture series event has been the subject of substantial backlash on campus. Prior to Monday, students and community members scheduled an anti-Peterson protest to denounce the contentious University of Toronto Professor for his views. A number of Queen’s professors also released an open letter addressed to Principal Daniel Woolf, which criticized his support of the event in the name of free speech.
At the Mar. 5 event, anti-Peterson protesters amassed in large groups outside Grant Hall and could be heard chanting throughout the duration of the event. Starting a short while after Peterson and Queen’s law professor Bruce Pardy began speaking, Grant Hall was filled with the noise of protesters pounding on windows. The banging was hard enough to break a stained glass window, with the sound of breaking glass resounding inside the hall.
Hands of protesters against Grant Hall stained glass windows. Photo by Iain Sheriff-Scott
In the event’s early stages, former Queen’s student Jonathan Shepherd stood in the upper seats of Grant Hall and yelled at Peterson, calling Peterson’s rhetoric “a f—ing lie.” Shepherd also asserted “[t]here’s no such thing as compelled speech,” which incited boos from the gathered listeners.
Two students then walked onto the stage in front of Peterson and Pardy, holding up a large banner with the words, “Freedom to smash bigotry,” written on it. The duo began yelling at the crowd, but were quickly told to leave by an event organizer, whereupon they jumped off the stage and walked out. As they left, the two sprayed an unknown substance into the air, causing confusion amongst some audience members.
Two protesters go onstage and hold a banner in opposition of Peterson. Photo by Iain Sherriff Scott
Despite the actions of the protesters, which Peterson referred to as “complete misbehaviour,” he and Pardy continued with the lecture.
Professor Pardy began by thanking the University and Principal Woolf specifically. He said he wanted to “acknowledge the role that both [Queen’s] and Principal Woolf have played in enhancing the reputation of this University in his commitment to academic freedom and academic debate.” This was in reference to Woolf’s Feb. 20 blog post, where the principal expressed the importance of allowing oppositional dialogue on campus.
Pardy then asked Peterson about his perspective on the opposition to his rhetoric, to which Peterson replied, “[individuals often] develop an ideological view of the world,” while failing to critically think about their worldview.
Peterson has been noted for his criticism of Bill C-16, which in 2016 amended the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity and expression as protected grounds. The psychology professor has refused to use non-binary gender pronouns as the amendment dictates, citing freedom of expression and the dangers of compelled speech.
“Freedom of speech is important for people who don’t have anything else. Supporting freedom of speech is not supporting the status quo,” Peterson stated.
Peterson went on to express that the narrative around Bill C-16 and compelled speech isn’t about transgender rights alone.
“This [discussion] is not about transgender rights, what these people are doing outside. It’s about something more dangerous than that,” Peterson told the audience.
“You do not write compelled speech into legislation,” he later said.
As protesters outside banged on the windows of Grant Hall, Peterson directly addressed their actions. He told those who gathered, “[t]hese people are not your friends.”
Peterson described the event as a contrast to the protesters’ actions outside and called the lecture an example of “genuine dialogue.”
Day of the Dead live in Canada today… https://t.co/641EpboVwv
— Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) March 6, 2018
“We’ve got three things: we’ve got negotiation, we’ve got slavery, and we’ve got tyranny, and those are your choices. This is negotiation – that’s public discourse,” the University of Toronto professor commented to the gathered attendees.
He further criticized the congregated protesters. “There’s a difference between informed opposition and childish grandstanding, and I think people know the difference between that,” he explained.
At the end of the event, Peterson apologized for not being able to stay and engage with listeners, but thanked the crowd for attending the lecture and “for being patient.”
Professor Pardy wrapped up the lecture by saying Peterson “may be the most important intellectual voice in this country today.”
“We’d like to salute you for your patience and your dedication in the face of the noise from outside,” Pardy then said to the audience. “You have participated in what I would consider to be an important step in the life of this University, and for that, we thank you.”
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