ONTARIO, June 20, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – It’s quiet at the Rainbow Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Closed for the summer, no one answers the phones. Toby Finlay, the former administrator for that LGBTQ “safe space” on campus, is no longer there. He has graduated and moved on. Or so claims a representative of the Rainbow Centre in a Facebook message.
The stir sparked by that LGBTQ association at Wilfrid Laurier University last year, though, is still here.
And it’s now grown into a $3.6-million lawsuit against the university and some of its staff by former teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd.
She is taking on the university, associate professors of communication studies Drs. Herbert Pimlott and Nathan Rambukkana, and also Adria Joel, then the university’s acting director of Diversity and Equity Prevention.
In a statement of claim filed in Ontario’s Superior Court last week, Shepherd alleges she has suffered attacks which have left her “unemployable in academia” and have forced her to abandon her doctoral studies or even teach at a university as a master’s graduate.
“Shepherd has suffered nervous shock as a result of the conduct of the defendants which was the foreseeable and intended result. In the alternative, it was the reasonably foreseeable outcome of their conduct and the defendants were negligent in their treatment of her,” reads the statement of claim.
It all started with a complaint filed by university’s Rainbow Centre staff in November last year after Shepherd showed a clip of a TV Ontario show featuring a discussion about pronoun usage in Canada. Shepherd’s class was then studying pronouns.
In that clip used in Shepherd's class – and deemed offensive to trans people by the Rainbow Centre – University of Toronto professor Dr. Jordan B. Peterson described his objection to the federal government passing a law to force Canadians to use people’s preferred pronouns. In some cases, that means Canadians now have to use new pronouns like “zie” and “zer” for members of the LGTBQ community.
That, apparently, was enough given the politically-correct climate on Canadian university campuses these days to trigger an investigation.
In a meeting Shepherd secretly recorded, she was questioned by the three defendants named in the lawsuit and brought to tears.
“All three lambasted Shepherd, viciously attacking her personally, falsely alleging that there had been a complaint or complaints about her tutorial and insisting that, in playing the TV Ontario clip, she had been threatening to her students,” reads her statement of claim.
University officials went so far during that meeting as to compare University of Toronto professor Dr. Peterson to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
Shepherd’s secret audio recording of the meeting went viral on social media and she quickly became something of a hero to defenders of free speech and a pariah to some in the LGBTQ community.
Wilfred Laurier University and those in attendance at the meeting have since issued lengthy and public apologies. Last week, the university said in a statement it will vigorously defend itself against the allegations in the lawsuit.
An independent review has since proposed recommendations to the administration at Wilfred Laurier University.
“Many of those steps have already been taken, including training, a review and update of university policies, and the establishment of a task force that prepared a Statement on Freedom of Expression that was approved by the senate of Wilfrid Laurier University and endorsed by the university’s board of governors,” reads the university’s official statement.
Despite those assurances by Wilfred Laurier University, the controversy caused by the incident continues to rage on social media and in the press.
Peterson, whose televised comments on legislating pronoun use sparked this incident, posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday last week that Wilfred Laurier University “has much more to learn before all this is over.”
On tour to promote his best-selling book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Peterson did not reply to repeated media requests to elaborate on what it is Wilfred Laurier and other universities have yet to learn. His publicist e-mailed back to say the professor is simply unavailable.
Shepherd also did not respond to requests for an interview.
In the wake of the international attention on Wilfred Laurier University by its treatment of Shepherd, the Rainbow Centre reportedly pushed for an apology from the university’s president for not acknowledging transphobia on campus.
The Rainbow Centre also reportedly asked for additional safety measures for the university’s diversity and equity buildings, including panic buttons and reinforced glass, and the hiring of a full-time trans person of colour to offer mental health support for students.