Radical feminist professor indoctrinates students at Ryerson University
At Toronto’s Ryerson University, students majoring in one of the “ology” disciplines have to take courses from another to round out their education. It is natural to take electives that add value to your major, so many students majoring in, say, psychology or criminology, both of which prepare students for careers where an understanding of relationship dysfunction is important, will opt for a course in the sociology department called “The Sociology of Violence and the Family.”
The problem with this course—and the reason I am writing about it—is that there is only one sociology instructor, Kelly Train, teaching it. So it’s Ms Train or no course at all in domestic violence (which, by the way, is no longer referred to by that trope in scholarly circles; it has for some years been more commonly and precisely known as Intimate Partner Violence, or simply IPV, which is the trope I am accustomed to, and will use hereafter.)
Train is by numerous accounts routinely peddling ideology-based theories on subjects she is not qualified to teach, while stifling freedom of inquiry and speech in her classes. Ryerson University should have taken action on this problem a few years ago, when they became aware of it, but apparently did nothing to solve it.
So the problem continues. Ryerson needs a sharper nudge, and this is it.
Train is a hardline feminist ideologue and, as suggested above, had already emerged as a controversial figure before I glommed on to her extreme bias and the distress it is causing or has caused a number of her present and former students. By former, I don’t mean only students who completed her course and were dissatisfied with it, but those who dropped out, because they found the costs incurred to their intellectual integrity in attendance higher than any perceived benefits they might receive by staying.
In 2017, Train was featured in several campus-focused publications, including the Ryerson student newspaper, The Ryersonian, for telling a student she could not write an essay arguing that the gender wage gap is a myth. She told the then fourth-year marketing and business student, Jane Mathias, that the “myth” premise is wrong, that the student should not depend on business sources she proposed to use, as they “blame women because of their patriarchal nature,” and should only use “feminist sources.” She suggested instead that Jane write her paper on “the glass ceiling” – that is, she should write a paper arguing precisely the opposite thesis from the one she wished to pursue.
Jane’s twin sister Josephine, studying at the University of Toronto, devoted a YouTube video to the subject, titled, “The Reality is Patriarchy: Indoctrination at Ryerson University.” The video contains a screenshot of the email Train sent to Jane that confirms these allegations. Jane also provided notes on the assignment to a reporter from the Toronto Sun, which ran a story as well, in which Train notes that Ontario and Canada government websites and Statistics Canada will not be considered scholarly sources.
In her interview with The Ryersonian included in the video, Josephine asks, considering how many times the gender gap has been explained and debunked, “How can someone so high in her academic level say that it’s completely wrong? That was my biggest issue.”
I interviewed three students who have had classroom experience with Train, whom I will identify as Andrea, Sandra and Jessica, not their real names. (The vast majority of the students in this course are women.)
Andrea dropped out of Train’s course after the first week. In a telephone interview with her, she told me that she was first of all put off by Train’s affect, which she described as “intimidating” as well as coarse (“every other word was f***ing this or f***ing that”). But mainly she was offended by Train’s denigration of any discipline or research method that she did not approve of.
According to Andrea, Train’s view is that IPV is always—and only—the abuse of women by men. Highly misandric (“men are always the problem”), Train ascribes a wish to control women as inherent in men. Andrea quoted her as saying, “After this course you will realize that you have been abused, raped or mistreated at some time in your life.”
When individual students pushed back against the dogma of unilateral IPV – some gave examples of male family members or friends who had been abused by women – Train rejected them out of hand. According to Andrea, Train told the class that if anyone opted for her online course because they found her intimidating, they would get lower marks, as they would not be working as hard. Andrea, therefore, decided she would not even take Train’s online course.
Sandra, my second interviewee, is presently taking Train’s course. She described Train to me as “cold and intimidating, very intimidating and comes off that way in the very first class.” She “tears every other discipline down.” Another student reportedly told Sandra that “if you write your essays and blame it on patriarchy you’ll be fine.” When challenged, Sandra said Train “yells” to discourage further objections. Sandra said she intends to write what Train wants to hear, not because she agrees, but because “I need a good grade.”
Sandra happens to be better informed on IPV than the average student, so she knows very well that men can and do get abused by women. But when she tried to introduce statistics into the discussion, she reports that Train told her stats are of no use and anyone (in her class) who uses them is “stupid.” Train claimed that stats do not convey more nuanced forms of abuse, such as verbal, psychological and financial. Perhaps not, but women are quite as capable of these forms of abuse, and employ them at much the same rate as men. Indeed, during custody battles, false allegations of abuse—sexual abuse of children and violence against the ex-spouse—escalate dramatically.
Jessica, my third interviewee, dropped out of Train’s present course after three weeks. Jessica had taken a course previously with Train, whose subject was “family differences and diversity.” She recalled one instance in which a male student told the class his father had full custody of him because his mother had not wanted him. Jessica reported that Train’s response to him was, “Are you sure your father didn’t just want your mother to pay him child support?”
Train was here parroting the common feminist myth that when a father asks for shared parenting or full custody, the only possible motive must be financial. That a father could love his child as much as a mother conflicts with the “power and control” theory governing many radical feminists’ understanding of male-female relations. Jessica told me that the young man’s eyes filled with tears at Train’s response. The other students were “shocked, to say the least,” at Train’s baseless insensitivity. “I have never had a professor like that, never,” Jessica concluded.
Maybe you think I am being tough on Train, and that a handful of students out of hundreds isn’t a fair representation. Statistically, you’d be right (even though Train doesn’t believe in statistics herself). Train’s ratings are good. A lot of students don’t see her tough affect as threatening at all, and take it in stride. Many students liked her personality. Most said they would take the course again. Some students really gushed their admiration for her.
But a closer look reveals that it may not be Train’s erudition or Socratic skills that constitute her most compelling attribute. The course’s average score out of five for “difficulty” is 2.0. Typical remarks: “she generally grades generously”; “Marks very easy I would say and for the exams, she gives all the questions in class!”; “Make sure you listen and take notes, the book is really small so you don’t really do a lot of reading. she also gives you the test questions to help you prep”; “She seems very tough but she is a very easy marker. Don’t buy any textbooks just show up to class and take notes”; “Professor Train is by far the best prof at Ryerson. She is such an amazing lecturer, and inspires students in class discussions. If you have her as your prof consider yourself blessed” (this student rated the level of the course difficulty at “1.0”).
Put these remarks together with what my interviewees told me, and what I see is a forceful, rather charismatic personality joined to adamant views. I see someone very “generous” with her time and rewards to those who toe the party line, not so much with students expressing independent opinions. Those students cross her at their peril. So it is no great surprise that the students who love her are those who see the rote-based ease of the course and the absence of any need to think for oneself as positive aspects, and those who complain about her are students who with intellectual aspirations, eager to develop their critical thinking skills.
Train’s herd of admirers are unlikely to have inquired into Train’s scholarly credentials. It is unlikely they would have cared that her academic background in the subject of IPV is virtually nil, and her publication history the thinnest of gruel altogether. She has published six articles, none of them expressly on IPV. Her sociology department profile states Train is “currently working on a number of large projects, including a book exploring the marginalization of the voices of Sephardi, Mizrahi and Jewish women of colour within Jewish feminist thought, and a book examining the experiences of North African and Indian Jews in the Toronto Jewish Community.” No hint of any interest in IPV is evident in Train’s academic profile.
As it happens, IPV is one of my niche topics as a journalist. Over the last 20 years, I have done a great deal of research on the subject. I know the epidemiology of the phenomenon quite well. (Epidemiology, a bona fide discipline, is the science through which public health and public safety policies are formed, including health policies that favour practices that target female-specific maladies and safety risks—i.e. Epidemiology could not exist without reliable statistics, which makes Train’s resistance to statistics all the more risible.)
I would recommend that Train read a 2019 report on IPV, titled “Prevalence and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence in Canada as measured by the National Victimization Survey.” Lead authors are Alexandra Lysova of Simon Fraser University and Don Dutton, Emeritus professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia. The data came from a random sample of 33,000 Canadians surveyed in the 2014 General Social Survey of Victimization, so any teacher addressing the issue of IPV should not even think about trashing the source. Or even criticizing, let alone failing, a student for depending on it as evidence for their thesis.
From its abstract:
Based on the 2014 Canadian General Social Survey on Victimization, this study examined the prevalence of victimization resulted from physical and/or sexual IPV, controlling behaviours and also consequences of IPV for both men and women in a sample representative of the Canadian population. Given the paucity of research on male victims of IPV at the national population level, this article specifically discussed the experiences of men who reported violence perpetrated by their female intimate partners. Results showed that 2.9% of men and 1.7% of women reported experiencing physical and/or sexual IPV in their current relationships in the last 5 years. In addition, 35% of male and 34% of female victims of IPV experienced high controlling behaviours—the most severe type of abuse known as intimate terrorism. Moreover, 22% of male victims and 19% of female victims of IPV were found to have experienced severe physical violence along with high controlling behaviours. Although female victims significantly more often than male victims reported the injuries and short-term emotional effects of IPV (e.g., fear, depression, anger), there was no significant difference in the experience of the most long-term effects of spousal trauma—posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-related symptoms.
Professor Dutton has dedicated his entire career to this issue. He has keynoted conferences on the subject all over the world. As of 2018, Dutton had over 30,000 downloads of his numerous publications. (Train’s scholarship has been cited in journals three times.) His 2006 book, Rethinking Domestic Violence, is the Ur-text for serious students of the subject, although I am sure Train has not read it or perhaps even heard of it.
I reached out to Professor Dutton, apprised him of the Ryerson situation and asked for comment. He wrote to me, “It is academically unacceptable to fail students for failing to agree with the professor and to rule out empirical studies. This Ryerson prof would fail me if I took her course.”
I of course contacted Kelly Train to ask for her side of this story. She did not respond. I also asked for comment from the Ryerson administration. Their response was a boilerplate statement that Ryerson University “is committed to creating a culture of respect and civility where all members of the community share a commitment to academic freedom, open inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge; where people feel valued and respected and treat one another with trust, dignity and respect.” No mention of Train or the fact that the allegations against her indict her of violating every single tenet in that statement.
Kelly Train is not a teacher. She is a conduit for feminist doctrine. Yet in spite of her unprofessional style and lack of academic accreditation to teach a university-level course in IPV, she earns $185,000 a year. As the old song goes, “Nice work if you can get it.” And apparently, if you’re a male-bashing, empirical-evidence suppressing, radical feminist in the department of Sociology at Ryerson University, “you can get it if you try.”
When Bill C16 passed in 2017, many women rang the alarm against legislation that would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include protection against hate speech with regard to gender identity or expression. Concerns about the Bill were that gender identity protections would supercede protections for women. While there was a promise that a gender-based analysis (GBA) report would be forthcoming, it has not been released. That’s not good enough for Jennifer Joseph, who has launched a petition for the release of this information.
“We, the undersigned, Citizens of Canada,” resolves the petition, “call upon Candice Bergen to ask for the Gender-Based Analysis report be made public, and for Statistics Canada to explain their analysis or publish the results.”
Women who voiced concerns back in 2017 were not listened to and were accused of transphobic hate speech for broaching concerns about Bill C16. Yet much of what they predicted has come to pass. Women who speak out against having male-bodied persons in women’s spaces are called names, ostracized, and shut out of those places themselves.
In 2018, Kristi Hanna left a Toronto shelter for abused women rather than share a room with a male-bodied trans person. Her complaints were unheeded by staff. Vancouver Rape Relief, Canada’s oldest rape crisis centre, was denied funding by the City for not being inclusive enough to male-bodied trans persons. A human rights complaint was filed by Kimberly Nixon in 2019 against the center for the refusal to train Nixon, born male, to become a peer counsellor. Vancouver Rape Relief did not believe that Nixon could be a peer counsellor to other women, because Nixon was not born female. A rape relief center did not want women who had been raped to have to be counselled by a male person, so they lost their funding entirely.
The case of Jessica Yaniv, who has brought multiple complaints before the Human Rights Tribunal, accusing women of being hateful for not wanting to wax her male genitalia, shows how absurd this entire thing has become. Women’s rights to determine the work they would do in their private homes were questioned under Bill C16.
The petition states that police departments across Canada are no longer recording the sex of alleged offenders, “but instead the gender by which they identify.” The reasoning is that a person’s sex is too personal, and irrelevant to the charge of a crime committed. It is reasonable to consider that this change is to avoid running afoul of Human Rights legislation. Problems with this new practice include the confusion of crime stats, which then record crimes committed by male-bodied female-identifying persons as women’s crimes.
The Bill also interferes with parental rights, forcing parents to go along with their minor children’s ideas about medical alterations to their healthy bodies.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Bill C16 is the one that is most readily dismissed by trans activists. Bill C16 seeks to rewrite protections for women by removing the definition of the word. This denial of a biological definition of the word woman is what has allowed women to be brought up on charges of human rights abuses when they define the word to exclude persons who are born male.
Bill C16 offers protected classes for “gender identity” and “gender expression,” which terms are not legally defined. This defacto changes the meaning of the word woman to “whatever if feels like” to any given individual. In essence, this has meant that a person who dresses up as stereotypically feminine can say they are a woman, and gain access to those protections, such as abused women’s refuges, rape crisis centres, women’s prisons, and women’s hospital wards, that have previously been designated for the care of women.
This is done out of compassion for the individual who identifies more with those stereotypes that are associated with the opposite sex than with their own, but in doing so, it offers no consideration for women who need spaces and protections that male-bodied persons, no matter their fashion choices, do not. This petition seeks redress of these grievances by obtaining information on the effects of the law and is open for signatures until April.
A Ryerson student who has been involved with the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) expense scandal has been elected president.
Ali Yousaf, the presidential candidate from the slate Rise, won the RSU election a week ago. Yousaf won against the presidential candidate from the slate Inspire, Charmaine Reid, by 109 votes. Yousaf received 510 votes, and Reid earned 401 votes.
Yousaf was involved with former RSU president Ram Ganesh’s slate during his presidential campaign. Ganesh was impeached pending an investigation into overspending on the student union’s credit card account in February 2019. The credit card statement, which had Ganesh’s name on it, included questionable exorbitant purchases at LCBO locations, a shisha lounge, and restaurants.
Yousaf engaged in alleged financial mismanagement with 6 Fest in 2017. A portion of the money meant for refunding students who could not attend the concert went into the personal bank accounts of Yousaf, Ganesh, and former vice president of student life and events Harman Singh. Yousaf was a board member at the time, and Ganesh had been working as a student life and events assistant.
Students have been speculating on social media about if Yousaf will shut down the police investigation into the credit card scandal, as Ganesh and him are close friends. Ganesh halted an investigation into Yousaf’s involvement with 6 Fest, so students are wondering if history will reoccur. The RSU filed a report with Toronto police about the credit card scandal.
This election comes after Ryerson terminated their operating agreement with the RSU for not fulfilling parts of their contract on Jan. 24. A legal claim was filed by the RSU against Ryerson. The RSU is seeking $2.7 million in damages for breach of contract, the release of student fees withheld by Ryerson, $100,000 in punitive damages, a declaration acknowledging the university is in breach with their operating agreement with the student union, and their legal fees.
Voting for the RSU election was held in the Student Campus Centre from Feb. 12 to 14. Students could not vote online like they did last year and instead were required to use paper ballots.
The results were supposed to be released by 9 p.m. last Friday, but counting took hours longer than expected, according to vice president of operations James Fotak. Results were not tallied until 4 a.m. on Saturday.
Fotak said that 965 students voted in the RSU election. Ryerson has 36,347 students, so this means voter turnout was about 2.7 percent.
Yousaf will lead an executive team that consists entirely of candidates who ran from Rise. The four other elected executives are Liora Dubinsky as vice president of operations, Vaishali Vinayak as vice president of equity, Siddhanth Satish as vice president of education, and Usama Sheikh as vice president of student life and events.
In Canada, as in many other western countries, a guarantee against being “twice put in jeopardy” is a constitutional right. If you’ve been convicted of a crime, and you have paid your debt to society, you cannot be reconvicted of the exact same crime.
Of course, this guaranteed right only applies to such crimes in the Criminal Code as murder, rape or kidnapping. For thought crimes, there are no such guarantees. When it comes to thought crimes, we have yet to discover the upward limit for the jeopardies that may be imposed.
A double-jeopardy fix seems to be in for Lynn Beyek, appointed to the Senate by Stephen Harper in 2013. From the heavily mixed Indigenous/non-Indigenous northern area of Dryden, Ontario, Sen Beyek is presently a non-affiliated senator. A Senate committee is poised to decree next week that even though Sen Beyek fulfilled the requirements of her penalty for an initial thought crime, she is deemed insufficiently … re-educated, let us say, and must, therefore, suffer further, much more punitive retribution.
It is quite possible, even probable, that Sen Beyak, removed from the Conservative caucus in early 2018, and suspended without pay from Senate duties for several months in 2019, will now be suspended again without pay for the duration of this parliament, and forced to undergo further re-education concerning her problematic beliefs.
If that happens, many of her colleagues will be glad to have this thorn in their side out of sight and out of mind for several years (barring a successful no-confidence vote in this minority government). But others—the supporters who share her convictions (and she has a few senate colleagues who do; whether they will say so publicly we’ll know in due course), as well as those who do not share her views, but do support her right to hold them —will believe a great injustice has been done.
What are Sen Beyak’s thought crimes, which used to be posted on her website, but are no longer there? Well, for one thing, she believes status Indigenous peoples should integrate fully into Canadian society. As she wrote in an open letter on Sept 1, 2017, quoted in a CBC report, “None of us are leaving, so let’s stop the guilt and blame and find a way to live together and share. All Canadians are then free to preserve their cultures in their own communities, on their own time, with their own dime.”
Sen Beyak expressed approval of Pierre Trudeau’s 1969 White Paper on Indigenous issues, produced in collaboration with Jean Chrétien as Indian Affairs Minister, which proposed doing away with the Indian Act and treaties and eliminating a distinct legal Indian status. Sen Beyak said she felt they “got it right.” Trudeau had proposed an end to the Indian Act, with a fair, one-time settlement for individual natives, in exchange for the financial (not historical) portion of the treaties and land claims. Sen Beyak is in agreement with Pierre Trudeau’s statement, “We could mount pressure groups across this country on many areas where there have been historic wrongs. I do not think it is the purpose of a government to right the past. It cannot re-write history. It is our purpose to be just in our time.”
Sen Beyak at this point was already in trouble for remarks in the Red Chamber considered even more heretical back in March 2017, when she criticized the Truth and Reconciliation Report for its failure of balance in its indictment of the residential school system (while conceding that there was some representation at the TRC by former residential-school students who recounted positive experiences). “I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants—perhaps some of us here in this chamber—whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part,” she said.
Sen Beyek was mocked by politicians from all parties as “ignorant” and her “hate speech” was denounced by all the liberal media. She was removed from the Senate Aboriginal Peoples Committee by interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, after four years of uncontroversial service on it, and calls for her resignation filled the air.
In Sept, 2017, Sen Beyak questioned the wisdom of the government’s decision to create a second costly Indigenous ministry. The media trashed her for it, erroneously implying in one case that Sen Beyek was not aware that Indigenous peoples were citizens of Canada.
Compounding her alleged wickedness were controversial letters sent from supporters of Sen Beyek’s heterodox views, which she posted on her website, and refused to take down when ordered to be by Senate Ethics Officer (SEO) Pierre Legault. Some of the comments in them were indeed offensive – Sen Beyek called them “edgy and opinionated” – and even Sen Beyak’s defenders would say she showed poor judgment in choosing such a small hill to die on, so to speak.
One letter, for example, suggested that if only people on reserves had the work ethic of the Amish, their homes would be well-constructed and safe, their resources up to standard and their communities economically self-sustaining. The latter was considered an example of “overt racism” by a Walrus writer, who accused some of Sen Beyak’s supporters of expressing “white-supremacist sentiments.”
I find such language misleading, erroneous and quite over the top. The letter is pointing to the tragic consequences of the “learned helplessness” that is a feature of many reserves. It has been referenced time and time again by credible, sympathetic mainstream writers. The writer’s impatience with the ongoing dysfunction on these reserves may present itself in an uncomfortably blunt manner, but it most certainly does not rise to the level of hate speech. (Which doesn’t mean some of the “edgy and opinionated” letters are a good look on a senator’s tax-funded website.)
Sen Beyak is likely more naïve than a willful provocateur, but in pushing back against what she considers the sanctification of native suffering, she often shoots herself in the foot. In resisting the tendency of progressives to label everything they don’t like “racist,” she said in an interview with Legault, “In my view, there is no racism in Canada. Right now there are groups putting people into silos, trying to divide us, by saying that we have racism against violence, we have racism against Indigenous people, Ukrainian, white privilege—I find those people racist. Those who seek to divide us are the racists. The rest of us are Canadians. We all bleed the same colour, we all live together in peace and harmony. That’s the way Canada is supposed to be.”
(Most of what Sen Beyak says here is fair comment. Unfortunately, how many Canadians will get past the words “there is no racism in Canada” without a sharp intake of breath—even those who believe the most fervently in freedom of speech? It certainly doesn’t help Sen Beyak’s case that she is a born-again Christian with all the politically incorrect views that implies.)
In January 2018, Sen Beyak learned from a press release that she had been removed from the Conservative caucus. The press release states that “Senator Beyek admitted to posting racist letters on her website and refused to take them down when I asked her to.” Sen Beyak denied that any formal request had been made to remove the letters, and categorically denied that she was a racist or would ever “admit” that she was racist. Her website was frozen.
By alluding to Sen Beyak as a racist, Scheer opened the door for a senate inquiry request, which emerged four days after his press release. The Ethics Office report gathered snippets from the letters, some out of context and painted them in toto as referring to Indigenous people as “opportunistic, pampered whiners who are milking the government and exploiting the taxpayer.” None of the letters actually say that, but that is the impression given by the report.
On Feb 27, 2019 Sen Beyak was presented with the SEO’s preliminary report. Not included: letters from Indigenous women – one a chief – supporting Sen Beyak’s position, or any other of the hundreds of non-racist letters vigorously supportive of Sen Beyak’s views. Also omitted were declarations from journalists and academics who had read all the letters, and who found nothing racist in them, lauding Sen Beyak as well informed and objective on Indigenous issues.
Former Manitoba provincial court judge and journalist Brian Giesbrecht for example, wrote in an April 2019 Frontier Centre for Public Policy blog post: “As far as the posted letters, the great majority provide thoughtful comments from people who have thought long and hard about the highly complex and vexing Indigenous situation. While a few of the more awkwardly worded letters could best have been omitted, the notion that the senator’s website is teeming with hatred and racism is preposterous.” He asks and answers: “So, what is the senator’s real crime – a crime deemed so egregious that she must be humiliated, shunned, and even financially damaged and hounded out of public office? Her ‘crime’ is refusing to go along with the politically correct version of the prevailing orthodoxy pertaining to Indigenous issues.”
On April 30th the Ethics Committee presented their harshly critical report on Sen Beyek to the Senate. It concluded that by “refusing to recognize the cultural oppression imposed by the residential School System, and the discriminatory objectives of the Indian Act, Senator Beyak appears to deny a historical truth and displays conduct that ignores its racist underpinnings.”
Sen Beyak was directed to take an online course given by Indigenous Awareness Canada, entitled “201 Indigenous Certification.” The goal of the course was “to build effective and positive relationships with Indigenous people,” focusing on “racism towards Indigenous Peoples, Residential Schools, Chronology and Current realities.” Ms Beyak completed the course and received a suitable-for-framing “Indigenous Awareness” Certificate.
Next, the Senate retained the federally funded ($6,888,000 in 2019) Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) in Toronto to provide Sen Beyak with “cultural competency Training.” Interestingly their website describes their mission as one of service to Indigenous people in urban communities. It makes no mention of cultural competency training for non-Indigenous. Anyway, there were to be three “training cycles,” undertaken at Sen Beyak’s own expense, at OFIFC’s Toronto office, a four-hour drive from her home, on separate occasions in June and August.
Sen Beyak took the first of them last June 6th as planned, in a group setting. Cycles two and three were mutually arranged for Aug 26 and 27. When Sen Beyak arrived on Aug 26, she was taken to the training director’s office and told that training was no longer available to her. Sen Beyak reported their refusal to the SEO, who replied that he had no communication to that effect from the OFIFC. Repeated requests from Sen Beyek to the OFIFC for an explanation went unanswered.
Nevertheless, in Sept, 2019, Liberal Senator Peter Harder, a senior bureaucrat in previous Liberal governments, sent an email to Canadian Press columnist Joan Bryden, falsely stating that “Senator Beyek has so far refused to follow through on the Senate’s recommendations for remedial measures.” On Sept 24, Bryden perpetuated the falsehood in The Toronto Star that “Senator Beyek refused to take sensitivity training.”
On parting from the OFIFC after the first session, Sen Beyek told her sensitivity trainer, “We would have to agree to disagree.” Disagree with the only “correct” understanding of “reconciliation”? How puzzling and disconcerting this statement must have seemed to the trainer. That was probably the first and only time anyone sent in for sensitivity training had dared to state that in spite of paying respectful attention to the course material, she had not changed her mind.
It seems clear that the OFIFC felt Sen Beyek was a lost cause, and simply abandoned her as they felt she could not be re-educated. One staffer claimed Sen Beyek had made the environment “unsafe” by claiming to identify as Métis on the grounds that she has an adopted sister of Métis provenance. Sen Beyek vigorously denies she made any such claim. Under normal circumstances it would be her word against the word of the staffer. But the SEO and the media seemed to feel such a gaffe was par for the course, and bought it without interrogation. A CBC reporter wrote: “she told her instructors she was Métis because her parents had adopted an Indigenous child.” That should have been “she allegedly told her instructors…”
The knives are out for Sen Beyek—too many, I fear, for her to avoid more drawn blood.
Sen Beyek has never had a fair trial. Racism, the word at the centre of the storm, has never been formally defined or debated throughout this process. The word “reconciliation” has become a cudgel to force everyone in public life to toe the line on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to say regarding Indigenous policy. Sen Beyek may speak her mind in a more unfiltered way than we are used to these days, but is that the fault of her words, or the fact that the rest of our politicians have learned the art of self-censorship so well that it is her candour alone, rather than the content of her discourse, that startles and offends?
I couldn’t help but think of Sen Beyek’s case as a macro example of what happened to Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer in a micro way when he recently spoke out in favour of law enforcement to deal with illegal Indigenous and environment activist blockaders. He was “de-platformed” from an all-leaders’ meeting with the PM. Why? Because, Trudeau said, Scheer had “disqualified” himself in having shown a “deliberate misunderstanding of reconciliation.”
If Andrew Scheer is disqualified from attending a party leaders’ meeting with the PM because he failed to understand the meaning of reconciliation, then I guess I don’t understand the meaning of reconciliation either. And I guess millions of others don’t understand it as well, because that’s how many of us are in Andrew Scheer’s lane on the blockades.
And it may likewise be that millions of Canadians agree with Sen Beyek’s perspective on Indigenous relations with their fellow Canadians, including some Indigenous people. If the Senate is bent on humiliating Sen Beyek for her alleged failure to understand reconciliation, then what does the word really mean? Reconciliation is supposed to bring people together. Instead, every time someone who embraces a heterodox view of the word is punished for speaking his or her mind, it drives us apart.
Furthermore, it is not up to the Senate to declare that Sen Beyek does not understand “historic truths.” Nobody knows what historic truths are while they are living through them. In a hundred years, if the reserves are exactly as they are today, our grandchildren may well say that Sen Beyek had a more coherent vision of historic truth than Justin Trudeau and his white-privilege-intersectionality minions.
Meanwhile, let us stop calling the sessions Sen Beyek attended “sensitivity training” or “reconciliation” sessions. If someone directed to take them cannot attend and listen in good faith and still disagree with what he or she has heard without undergoing double jeopardy and a “disappearance” from public life, then let us call them what they are: maoist re-education sessions.
Sen Beyek is no racist, any more than Jean Chrétien and Pierre Elliott Trudeau were. She has a right to hold opinions that beat against the current of conventional assumptions. Let her colleagues debate her if they don’t like her ideas. Instead, they have invited “cancel culture” into the Senate of Canada. What a dismal piece of political theatre we are witnessing, and one more giant nail in the coffin of freedom of speech.
Working in the media for over two decades has afforded me the chance to meet many of my heroes. Some encounters lived up to expectation and others were small disasters.
Lighting up an imported stogie with Robert Lantos in his midtown home was delightful. Sitting under a cabana at the Beverly Hilton with Gary Shandling was heavenly. And sitting in the green room with the late Don Rickles in Montreal was emotionally orgasmic.
But how do I describe my exchange with Jordan Peterson?
Let me give it my best shot. Some moons ago, a friend of mine was one of Peterson’s students. She spoke of her intriguing psychology professor and promised that she would let me tag along for a morning lecture at U of T. I passed it off as a flip invite that would never come to be—but I secretly hoped I was wrong.
Sure enough, one day, as I had my face buried in paperwork at my Summerhill intern desk, my friend Sarah stopped by out of nowhere. She told me to pack up my stuff and escorted me to class with her. I should have never doubted her.
Sarah and I did a fast parallel park on Bloor Street West and sauntered over to The Arts and Sciences Building. Cue Sinatra’s “Come Fly with Me.” Sound the trumpets. I was in Peterson’s world.
I guess you might say Peterson was enjoying relative obscurity then, in as much as genius can ever be truly obscure. It tends to illuminate, even under the dim of low wattage bulbs. But compared to his ubiquitous fame now, he was an unknown.
The lecture hall filled quicker than a king-sized beer mug at happy hour. The empty glass of water at the podium was a prolepsis for some of Peterson’s epic rants and proliferating insights. The excitement was palpable. And so was the budding adoration for the professor at the helm.
“This guy’s lectures are dope. The best Prof in Canada. Dude’s got game” proclaimed a well-tattooed man sitting one row under me.
I took another look around as Dr. Peterson made his way to the podium. To my surprise, students were devoid of the glassy film that usually covers the eyes of hopeful graduates. Laptops were fully charged. Pens were dipped in fresh ink. Hangovers were whipped into submission by copious amounts of caffeine and adrenaline.
This was not the lecture hall culture that I remembered. This was a brave new world known as Peterson’s Playhouse. Peterson wore blue jeans with a dark cardigan and a dress shirt underneath. He was clean-shaven with an ashen pallor. He was dark under the eyes and looked quite exhausted— which as I understand it now, was insomnia’s doing.
After gathering his thoughts, Peterson started lecturing. He quickly led us into a comprehensive examination of why both individuals and groups participate in social conflict, and the reasoning and motivation individuals take to support their belief systems (ideological identification) that result in mass killing and pathological atrocity.
Just another day at the office for Alberta’s most influential intellectual export. Midway into his 2-hour lecture, Peterson started to speak about the Holocaust and the horrors of Auschwitz. He did this as an academic adjunct to his primary supposition about belief systems.
Unexpectedly, he went into a searing psychological examination of the Nazis and the hundreds of thousands of German soldiers who were left bereft of human conscience as they dangled in the throws of ideological imposition by the Hitler regime.
Now I have attended many Holocaust remembrance events over the years. Each one, heart-rending in its own way. I have sat with survivors of the camps—each conversation sending shivers down my spine and taking me into the deepest recesses of spiritual pause.
But this was something different. Peterson struck an isolated chord.
Maybe it was the surprise of seeing a gentile Professor speaking with such passion and conviction about a topic that was so personal to me. I am not quite sure. But as Peterson’s voice cracked with raw emotion, I felt my own connection with the worst tragedy of Jewish history, grow deeper and stronger.
“We read about the Holocaust, and study it now, but we have no way to actually comprehend this kind of evil. This kind of unbridled malevolence,” Peterson said, eyes watering and body trembling.
“You don’t think it can happen again, well guess again man,” the professor exclaimed.
“Don’t underestimate the human capacity for evil. And it lives in all of us. You need to know how bad you CAN be, to commit to how good you MUST be,” said Peterson, as though it was his last breath.
I was so taken by the emotional power of the lecture that I waited 40 minutes after class to shake Peterson’s hand and thank him personally. I watched from a distance as he met his perfunctory obligations and shook hands with students.
The line moved quite slowly but I finally got to meet him.
“How can I help you, young man,” he said to me playfully.
“I just wanted to thank you, Professor, for such an amazing lecture,” I said. “As a Jewish person
I found your words about the Holocaust to be soul-stirring. I did not expect such words in a university environment,” I said nervously.
He said, “What is your aspiration? What are you hoping to do in life?”
I said, “I am a poet and aspiring writer, director, producer.”
“Well, history is in the hands of our best writers. So make us proud,” he said with a smile.
I would like to say the chat went on longer but that was it. Over before it really began. Some shlemiel came out of nowhere and nudged me to the side with an oversized Macbook. I could have sued. Diamond and Diamond could have sent me into early retirement with that one.
When I see Peterson on the big American talk shows or speaking at sold-out theatres across the world, I think back to the early lecture I attended. Was there any sign back then of the international fame that awaited him? Was he earmarked for world influence?
I don’t think anyone, including him, could have predicted the Peterson phenomenon. But I do think he was always an eminently smart and compelling character. And his proclivity to hold firm on his beliefs, and still confess deep vulnerability, was so rare.
So yeah, I think the signs were always there from the beginning.
Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos has dominated the best-sellers charts in dozens of countries. Estimates say the popular self-help book has moved in excess of 3 million copies worldwide. The book has given inspiration, insight and hope to struggling folks in virtually every corner of the globe.
Thank you, Dr. Peterson, for doing so much good. I can always say, I knew you—briefly—way back when.
In recent weeks, there has been much written about Peterson’s health challenges (and near-death experience) with a dependency on and severe reaction to clonazepam, a commonly prescribed drug in the benzodiazepine family. He started taking the drug shortly after he found out his wife, Tammy, had terminal cancer.
When a prominent self-help guru loses his footing, I suppose there is a sense of irony and morbid curiosity that naturally ensues. But that does not justify kicking a guy while he’s down. Some of the remarks directed at Peterson and his family, since news of his medical condition emerged, have been downright grisly.
It’s sad that being ill and bed-ridden in Russia gave his political adversaries an opening for rancour and an opportunity to push their own twisted agendas.
But this is the world we live in.
Be that as it may—even if Peterson were to never speak publicly again, I am convinced history would remember him as a brave friend to humanity. Maybe not the kind that one expected or summoned for. But one that said what needed to be said. And one that did what needed to be done.