Western countries like Canada and the United States are experiencing a very interesting political phenomenon.
Most Western countries have built their constitutions and institutions on concepts derived from liberal political ideology. However, over the past few years, we have also seen a rise of nationalist sentiments. The difficulty is that the former allows the latter to exist.
In other words, white nationalism needs liberalism to exist. However, liberalism inherently opposes white nationalism and vice versa. It is indeed a bizarre political scenario, but one we cannot and should not change for several reasons.
Over the summer, group called the Canadian Nationalist Party promoted a rally they intended to host on University of Toronto (U of T) property. However, in early August, U of T spokesperson Althea Blackburn-Evans announced U of T had no intention of hosting such an event.
Unfortunately for the university, this decision was met with both praise and disapproval. Advocates of freedom of speech and expression found U of T’s decision to deny the Canadian Nationalist Party as an attack on our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Others argued the university made a good call in their effort to protect students of minority communities.
There are many valid reasons for U of T to refuse to host the Canadian Nationalist Party’s rally. First and foremost, the university cited the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, as the primary reason to refuse to host a nationalist event on campus. These events have many worried that similar rallies will also cause the spread of hatred and violence.
However, the Canadian Nationalist Party’s rhetoric, particularly their 21-point platform does not indicate any direct threats of violent intent or any explicit incitement of violence. While the concern for the physical safety of minorities on campus is understandable, the context of the events in Charlottesville should be kept in mind.
While Canada does not have a history of racial relations to be particularly proud of, it does not have quite the same history with racism as the United States does. It is a combination of this history and the harsh political climate that sparked violence in Charlottesville this summer. Therefore, as there was no pre-emptive threat of violence, refusing to host the event altogether was an over-precaution on part of the U of T. Campus security should have been up to the task of securing and maintaining a safe environment at the event.
Although it is clear that the university has campus minorities in mind, freedom of speech has been a point of contention for many months at the university. Many still question U of T’s decision to stifle freedom of speech and expression on campus.
A similar scenario occurred this summer in Vancouver, when a nationalist group organized a demonstration at the Vancouver City Hall. Vancouver’s mayor, Gregor Robertson, was obligated to allow the group to hold their demonstration, as the government is indeed bound by the freedoms assured in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The new question is whether or not U of T should have refused to host the event.
This is a very complex question to answer, and it ultimately depends on what the university holds as a priority. U of T’s statement suggests that their goal in this controversy is to protect minorities on campus and to stop the spread of hatred. It is very clear that U of T is not trying to protect free speech in this case, but I would not necessarily say that it was working to silence it.
Ultimately, U of T is a business and, like any business, it will more than likely keep its bottom line in mind. In other words, the university’s priority is to maintain their reputation, and doing so means pleasing the majority on campus – the liberal left.
That being said, in this particular case, I think the university made the correct decision in refusing to host the Canadian Nationalist Party’s event. But I would be more cautious in the future in cases where the university is perceived as silencing speech, because once again, U of T is walking a very thin line when it comes to suppressing right-wing, and even some centrist, politics.
Without the presence of both left and right-wing politics on campus, there is no possibility for dialogue or compromise of ideas, which are both very necessary in the fight against the spread of hatred on campus.
By Stephanie Yaacoub
Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.