Why Is The National Gallery Giving a Platform to Jordan Peterson?
Torontoist has been acquired by Daily Hive Toronto - Your City. Now. Click here to learn more.




Why Is The National Gallery Giving a Platform to Jordan Peterson?

LGBTQ people and allies are planning to protest the March 9 talk.


A screen shot from the Facebook event for Jordan Peterson’s talk at the National Gallery of Canada on March 9. Photo via the Change.org petition urging the Gallery to cancel the event.

LGBTQ people are using their free speech to express their disgust at the news that University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson will speak at the National Gallery in Ottawa on March 9.

Peterson, as you’ll recall, is the professor who refuses to respect the gender identity of trans and non-binary students. He is terrified of trans rights legislation, Bill C-16, and has expressed fear that he’ll be charged with a hate crime if he misgenders someone (he won’t).

The embattled professor was one of our 2016 villains. But for a tl;dr version, Torontoist illustrator Brett Lamb summarized it all best:


Now, to be clear, there is nothing to indicate that Peterson plans to say anything about gender, Islamophobia, or any of the other political topics he has opinions on. It seems that the talk is actually on his area of expertise.

Still, people are not happy.

Artist Olivia Johnston wrote an excellent open letter to National Gallery director Marc Mayer. I want to draw your attention to this paragraph:

Many may argue that Peterson’s right to “free speech” is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically Section 2b. Indeed, his right to say what he wishes may be protected — but he is certainly not guaranteed a National, Government-funded forum, let alone one at an institution that claims to represent a progressive and diverse Canada. To quote a friend speaking on this topic — “I am SURE that the National Gallery could find someone else with expertise in this field who doesn’t actively use their platform as an academic to attack the trans community and denigrate social justice organizations doing anti-racist work.”

Ottawa-based LGBTQ advocate and mother of a transgender child, Amanda Jette Knox, told the CBC she wants the gallery to cancel the talk.

“When someone is as vocal as he is and is given a platform, he’s carrying his views with him to that platform,” she said.

Just this past weekend at the Manning Conference in Ottawa, he actually praised Milo Yiannopoulos, the professional internet troll who has recently experienced an explosive fall from grace, calling him “an amazing person.”

Still, despite this, the National Gallery seems to have no intention of cancelling.

The gallery told the CBC that Peterson was invited because of his expertise in the field of clinical psychology.

“The gallery invited him to speak about his specific research interest in the psychology of creativity, a subject he has spoken about at scientific conferences across North America and about which he has co-authored over 10 scientific papers,” the gallery told the CBC in a statement.

The story notes that Peterson also sent the CBC an email to make it clear that his invitation from the gallery preceded his “recent political travails.”

“The topic is apolitical, and the issues arising from my well-publicized stance against compelled speech are completely irrelevant to the talk,” Peterson said.

Still, free speech will be exercised by Ottawa’s LGBTQ communities and allies, who will be outside the National Gallery protesting at the exact same time.

The last word goes to Black Lives Matter Toronto’s Sandy Hudson: