An Ontario university has stripped a former professor of an honorary title after he wrote social media posts about Indigenous people that the school described as inflammatory and vulgar.

Brock University said its senate committee voted unanimously last week to strip former political science professor Garth Stevenson of his “emeritus” designation, which was given to him when he retired in 2012.

“The move came after a series of vulgar, inflammatory statements, aimed at the Indigenous community and others, were posted last week on Stevenson’s social media pages,” the university in St. Catharines, Ont., said in a statement.

Stevenson did not immediately respond to requests for comment but told the St. Catharines Standard that he apologizes for the posts, which included comments on the City of Victoria’s removal of a statue of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.

“While my language was intemperate and offensive and I apologize for it, I think the campaign to destroy the reputation of Sir John A. Macdonald is entirely unjustified and that was the point that I was trying to make,” Stevenson wrote in an email to the newspaper.

In his statement to the paper, Stevenson also called the emeritus designation a “meaningless title.”

“Although it might deprive me of the right to borrow books from their library, I am sure I can live without that,” he wrote.

In one now-deleted tweet cited in published news reports, Stevenson wrote that Victoria was removing the statue of Macdonald “to appease some snivelling aboriginals who probably never did a day’s work in their lives.”

Macdonald’s role in establishing residential schools has made him a polarizing figure in reconciliation efforts with Indigenous Peoples. Victoria said it removed the statue on Aug. 11 as part of a reconciliation process with the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations.

Tom Dunk, Brock’s provost and vice-president academic, said that Stevenson’s online comments are solely his own and are not reflective of the university’s views.

“Brock has no connection whatsoever with his views, and abhors comments that have been posted on his social media sites,” Dunk said in a statement.

The university’s handbook states that the title of professor emeritus “indicates the mutual desire” of the university and the retiree “to maintain an ongoing relationship.” 

Scott Henderson, the university’s senate chair and a social sciences professor, said the matter involving Stevenson is not a free speech issue.

“We are in no position to censor Mr. Stevenson’s comments,” Henderson said in a statement.

“The concern that has been raised here is with the horrendous tone of many of the comments made online, including those that wish harm others directly, and those which openly malign the Indigenous peoples of Canada and the very First Nations on whose land we meet today.”

Alanna Rizza, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press