SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: January 10, 2023

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):McGill University

Region & Country:Americas | Canada

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 10, 2023, McGill University cancelled a speaking event held by Robert Wintemute, a lawyer and professor at King’s College London. The event was cancelled due to a protest by trans rights activists.

The Faculty of Law’s Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism hosted the event, titled “The Sex vs. Gender (Identity) Debate In the United Kingdom and the Divorce of LGB from T.”  

Protesters charged Wintemute and the LGB Alliance, an English organization to which he is connected, with being anti-Trans – a charge he disputes. The event was canceled after protesters entered the venue, threw flour at Wintemute, and unplugged a projector he was using for his presentation.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the forcible cancellation of a campus event due to protesters’ disagreements with the speakers’ views. While the right of on-campus protesters to publicly express such disagreement must be protected, that right does not include the freedom to prevent others from speaking, or audiences on campus from receiving their messages. Rather, such expression must be conducted in a manner that is responsible and consistent with academic freedom and related university values. Forcible disruption of campus expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.

Sources:

https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/mcgill-speaker-s-talk-cancelled-after-trans-activists-protest-1.6224317 

https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/protest-by-trans-activists-forces-cancellation-of-mcgill-speech

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/mcgill-backlash-anti-trans-talk-1.6708251