All posts filed under: Canada

The Ultimate ‘Concept Creep’: How a Canadian Inquiry Strips the Word ‘Genocide’ of Meaning

In 208 AD, the Roman warrior emperor Septimus Severus arrived in Britain with 40,000 soldiers, intent on subduing the tribes inhabiting the northern part of the island. These tribes were part of the Caledonian confederacy, which occupied modern Scotland. But to the Romans, most everyone who lived outside the empire was a barbarian, full stop. So when Severus became frustrated by the Caledonians’ (sensible) refusal to submit to pitched battle, the emperor settled on another strategy, which we would now call genocide. In 210, he assigned the job of extermination to his son Caracalla, a mass-murdering lunatic who would later assassinate his own brother Geta in front of their mother. It likely was only Severus’ death in 211 that cut the operation short and saved Scotland from a complete holocaust. Caracalla always is listed by historians among the worst emperors of Roman history. But tellingly, his attempted annihilation of the Caledonians isn’t typically cited in the historical bill of particulars. In ancient Rome, genocide was seen as an acceptable military tactic if it was directed …

How Our Little Humanist Club Got Taken Over by Social Justice Dogmatists

I love living in this Canada of 2019. Just as it’s okay for my 20-year-old grandson to live with his girlfriend without being married, it’s okay for me to live with mine. No big deal, you say? Of course not. But such arrangements were unthinkable when I was 20 and living in South Africa. And in this Canada, I can hang with a gay friend and not think of him or her as “my gay friend,” but simply as my friend. And spend time with my other grandson and his girlfriend, who happens to be of South Asian ancestry, and not think of her as “a person of colour,” or “a Muslim,” but simply as the young woman who she is. And no one feels the tension and fear that such a relationship would have produced in the South Africa I inhabited as a young man—where interracial relationships of this type were prosecuted as crimes. And even though I’m an old white man, I feel at ease and at home in a society that’s moving …

Thoughtcrime and Punishment: A Year Of Shunning and Law Suits at a Canadian University

In late 2017, I found myself at the centre of a controversy at Wilfrid Laurier University, where I was an M.A. student and teaching assistant (TA) in the Communication Studies department. In the class for which I was serving as TA, I played part of a panel discussion that had aired on Ontario public television. As many readers will know, this material featured University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson making the argument against alternative gender pronoun usage, as well as Sexual Diversity educator Nicholas Matte’s arguments encouraging their use. Because I chose not to disavow Peterson’s views before airing the clip, I was brought into a subsequent disciplinary meeting. The supervisor for the course in question, Nathan Rambukkana, as well as the coordinator for my M.A. program, Herbert Pimlott (also known, at times, as “Hillary X Plimsoll”), and Gendered Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention manager Adria Joel accused me of breaking the law by airing a clip of Peterson in a classroom, as well as threatening and targeting trans people, thereby creating a toxic environment. …

Denial and the Free Speech Crisis

In a recent article for Quillette, Dan Meegan, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Guelph, argues that the restriction of freedom of speech we hear about in the news is a rarity in Canada—and that it is certainly not an issue at the University of Guelph. Respectfully, Meegan is absolutely wrong on this latter point. In fact, freedom of speech has been repeatedly repressed at the University of Guelph, and this has been going on for at least a decade. Meegan explains that in his nearly 20 years at the University of Guelph, he can’t recall even one time his students protested the expression of an offensive idea. Not even when he discusses research on gender differences in his evolutionary psychology unit. The only time a student objected to one of his reading materials, she talked to him about it politely. So, he argues, while there is much ado about freedom of speech, it’s not at issue in Guelph. Nevertheless, as a former University of Guelph student, I’ve witnessed the suppression of …

The Flawed History and Real Torment of Canada’s Residential Schools

Brian Tuesday was a little Ojibway boy when he was taken from his home at the Big Grassy River Indian reserve and moved to St. Margaret’s Indian Residential School at Fort Frances, Ontario, on the Canadian side of the Rainy River. Like many of Canada’s notorious residential schools, St. Margaret’s was situated in a large, imposing building. It was built at the edge of a river, adjacent to Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church. The boys and girls were separated in the yard by a wire fence. Brian, whose Ojibway spirit name was Tibishkopiness, wasn’t allowed to approach the fence to talk to his little sister. On more than one occasion, he stood helplessly on his side and watched as one of the nuns beat her for some real or imagined indiscretion. During the time he was at St. Margaret’s, Brian was sexually abused by a priest and beaten by a nun. Things got a bit better when they transferred him to St. Joseph’s Indian Residential School in Thunder Bay, Ontario—about 350 kilometres to …

The Scandal at UBC Keeps Growing—but No One Has Been Held Accountable

Three years ago, the University of British Columbia suspended novelist Steven Galloway, who then chaired UBC’s creative writing program, following explosive allegations that he had sexually assaulted a UBC student. In response, a group of Canadian writers signed on to a movement called UBC Accountable, which highlighted the lack of due process in the proceedings against Galloway. While some members of the Canadian literary community vilified #ubcaccountable as an insult to rape victims, the movement was vindicated when the full facts of Galloway’s case became widely known. Specifically, an internal investigation by a retired provincial supreme court judge concluded that Galloway hadn’t sexually assaulted anyone. Her report, whose contents were detailed in an exhaustive Quillette investigative report, suggested that the principal complainants were either confused or malicious fantabulists. Earlier this year, the Vancouver-based university was required to pay Galloway $167,000 in the wake of statements by UBC officials that violated the former professor’s privacy rights and, as Galloway argued, caused “irreparable reputational damage and financial loss.” Yet despite all this, the university still hasn’t fulfilled the …

An Academic Mobbing at McGill

Editor’s note: More than 200 pages of supporting documents have been gathered by Professor Ibrahim for use in a defamation lawsuit he is engaged in against a student and a colleague. These documents include both the Minority and Majority Reports issued by the Departmental Tenure Committee, student testimonials and affidavits, as well as a variety of departmental communications involving Professor Ibrahim’s tenure. These materials are not publicly available but have been reviewed by the editors and they are referenced and quoted throughout the article.  On February 6, 2018, a faculty member of McGill University’s Institute of Islamic Studies (IIS) emailed Robert Wisnovsky, the newly installed director of the institute, to report that he had overheard three women talking in an elevator about their desire to take down tenure-track faculty member and Islamic Law Specialist Ahmed Fekry Ibrahim. “I want him to get fired,” one student wearing a hijab said. “He is the most Islamophobic prof I have ever had. I fucking hate him.” It’s unclear whether the comments were uttered randomly, or if, as seems …

Righteous Among the Nations: The Rescued Tribe of Colonel Jose Arturo Castellanos Contreras

“When you grow up in a country where war is the order of the day, the bullets are flying all around you, it is only normal that once you get to a safe place like Canada, it may actually be a good thing to leave your country’s history behind, at least for a while,” Alvaro Castellanos tells me over coffee in midtown Toronto. “And so that is what my brothers did when we got here.” But in time, the past caught up with the Castellanos family. With the release of their extraordinary documentary film The Rescue, Alvaro and his younger brother Boris haven’t just faced up to their clan’s history. They have turned it into high art. Alvaro and Boris came to Canada as immigrants during the height of the civil war in native El Salvador. Their first home was in Pickering, a predominantly white, middle-class Toronto suburb. This was a household run by their mother and aunt. The boys’ estranged father remained in El Salvador, an almost entirely unknown figure in their lives. “You …

The Purity Spiral of Canada’s Music Industry

In 2015, the Canadian music world erupted in controversy when a Calgary post-punk band named Viet Cong came to slight prominence with the release of their debut album. The name was deemed culturally appropriative, insensitive and racist. And the band endured concert cancellations and protests throughout a North American tour for its self-titled debut album, with some activists claiming that the band’s name was enough to cause them full-blown emotional trauma. Finally, in late 2015, members of the band announced they would change the name, unveiling “Preoccupations” in 2016 (under whose banner the band has released two further albums). One might think the band would be lauded for this move: The members took the protests seriously, spoke to those involved—even if they may have bristled at the accusations of outright racism, and pushed back against the level of scorn they were receiving. Having chosen “Viet Cong” in an unserious moment during an early rehearsal session, the band eventually concluded that four guys from Alberta, none with any personal connection to Vietnam, might want to pick …

The Furore Over a Quebec Theatre Production Has Missed the Point

Quebec is a bastion of North American progressivism. Canada’s only majority-Francophone province is a place where postsecondary education is heavily subsidized, unions remain powerful, the social safety net is thick, and the power grid is fuelled by green hydroelectric energy. Given all this, it might have surprised some outside observers to learn that Quebec briefly played host this summer to a theatrical production described by one prominent artist as “reminiscent of blackface minstrel shows.” The controversy sprang to popular attention when Montreal’s Jazz Festival canceled the remaining performances of SLAV, in which a white star (surrounding by a largely white cast) performed songs composed by black slaves. Director Robert Lepage, a giant of the Quebec stage, denounced the decision as “a direct blow” to his artistic freedom. But activists within Quebec’s black community described the cancelation as necessary. “I am not the type to scream about cultural appropriation, but this project left me with an acrid aftertaste,” Québécois rapper Webster wrote in Le Devoir. “How many will benefit from black cultural heritage set to stage …