Free speech, hate speech, gender identity, and controversy: Jordan Peterson and Meghan Murphy to speak in Vancouver

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      Two forthcoming events in Vancouver will feature speakers whose views about identity politics and social justice issues—and particularly trans people and issues—have sparked passionate debates about free speech and intellectual freedom, hate speech, LGBT rights, and safety.

      Jordan Peterson

      A controversial University of Toronto professor, whose opinions about political correctness and identity politics have received both support as well as criticism and protests, and who has also garnered international media coverage, is returning to speak in Vancouver again.

      Jordan Peterson is a Toronto psychology professor and clinical psychologist.

      Peterson has stated in interviews that he will refuse to use the gender pronouns that trans or nonbinary people choose for themselves, such as "they/them".

      He was a vocal opponent of Bill C-16 (which was passed in June 2017) that enforces the rights of nonbinary identities on the basis of the potential for infringement upon freedom of expression. In May 2017, Peterson spoke at a Senate committee hearing about the bill, arguing that the legislation was ideologically driven.   

      His followers regard him as a champion of free speech and civil liberties but numerous critics have slammed Peterson as transphobic and associated with the alt-right. However, he has stated that he does not affiliate himself with the right-wing or ultra-conservatives and considers himself an individualist.

      On November 2, CBC Docs POV released the documentary Shut Him Down: The Rise of Jordan Peterson by filmmaker Patricia Marcoccia takes a look at how Peterson has become the centre of a fierce debate involving issues of free speech and hate speech.

      Peterson previously spoke in Vancouver on February 15 at UBC's Frederic Wood Theatre (presented by the UBC Free Speech Club and Penguin Random House) and on July 26 at UBC's Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.

      As part of his North American tour, he is returning to speak in the city at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Wednesday (December 5). His talk is described as addressing how to overcome obstacles in life, how to improve yourself, the psychology of religion, mythology, and more.

      Feminist Current founder Meghan Murphy

      Meghan Murphy

      Meanwhile, a Vancouver-based feminist, who has expressed controversial opinions about trans people, will continue to hold a talk about gender identity and women's rights at the Vancouver Public Library (VPL) on January 10—despite outcry and incorrect information that the event was cancelled.

      CKNW reported on December 2 that the news station received an email that appeared to be from Feminist Current founder Meghan Murphy on December 1, stating that her event had been cancelled.

      However, CKNW updated the article to state that Murphy confirmed with CKNW that the email was not actually from her and the event will continue as planned.

      After numerous concerns were raised about Murphy's appearance at an event to be held at the library, the VPL issued a statement to explain that although it does not agree with Murphy's views, it will permit her and her publication, Feminist Current, to rent a space at the library due to their commitment to intellectual freedom and free speech. The library neither endorses nor will be hosting the event. 

      The VPL also stated that it has contacted the Vancouver Police Department who will be monitoring the event for any violations of the criminal code.

      Murphy has come under fire for her critical views about and questioning of trans rights and identities.