The NDP is objecting to an invitation Conservative MPs have extended to psychology professor and author Jordan B. Peterson to testify before the House of Commons justice committee, calling it “irresponsible and morally reprehensible.”
In a statement released Tuesday, NDP MP Tracey Ramsey said the Conservatives are “dangerously pandering to divisive politics instead of standing up for human rights.”
Despite the outcry, Peterson is scheduled to testify Thursday morning as the committee continues its ongoing study into online hate. The committee’s work on the issue came the wake of the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand, which targeted Muslims and killed 51 people.
In an interview with the National Post, Conservative MP Michael Cooper, one of the committee’s vice-chairs, said the NDP has been aware of the witness list for about a month and had ample opportunity to object to Peterson’s inclusion before it was finalized.
Cooper called the NDP’s statement an obvious effort to play politics, considering that it’s “only on the eve of the committee that the NDP is expressing their outrage.”
"We understand there's a balance of free speech, but there are limits to what you can say in this country and that's exactly why the online hate study is so important."
Ramsey, another of the committee’s vice-chairs, said that Peterson is “strongly on the wrong side of history,” claiming his views on gender identity and Islamophobia are “inflammatory and dangerous.” He has repeatedly criticized the word “Islamophobia,” saying it’s “ill-defined” and is “not a word with integrity.” He originally came to prominence for balking at legislation to add gender identity and orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act, and refused to use preferred pronouns for trans students, arguing it was a form of compelled speech. Peterson did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.
Ramsey called on the Liberal Party to join the NDP in denouncing Peterson and the decision to invite him to the justice committee. Speaking in the foyer of the House Wednesday afternoon, Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault said he was looking forward to holding Peterson’s “feet to the fire” at the committee hearing.
“We understand there’s a balance of free speech, but there are limits to what you can say in this country and that’s exactly why the online hate study is so important,” said Boissonnault.
Cooper said that a committee invitation does not mean the party approves of everything the speaker says, but pointed out that Peterson is a massively popular best-selling author and a tenured professor at the University of Toronto. Peterson has said his book has sold about three million copies and is being translated into 50 languages. Peterson is also an occasional contributor to the National Post and has offices in the newspaper’s building, said Postmedia spokeswoman Phyllise Gelfand.
“Professor Peterson certainly has views that are controversial. Not everything he says I agree with or endorse, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be allowed to express his views,” said Cooper. “(The NDP) are hyperventilating. Frankly, it should concern Canadians, when we’re talking about speech, that there are those who want to tell people what to say and what to think.”
The effort to study online hate comes after a recent jump in incidents noted by Statistics Canada. The 47-per-cent increase in police-reported hate crimes between 2016 and 2017 was largely a result of a spike in non-violent hate crimes in Canada.
The issue has also been attracting worldwide attention after the Christchurch shootings. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Paris this week to meet with government leaders and representatives from social media companies to discuss solutions to the growing problem of violent extremist content online.
Peterson will appear at the justice committee on Thursday morning via videoconference at 9:45 a.m.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019