Controversial psychologist Jordan B. Peterson is coming to Victoria this spring as part of his North American tour, but not everyone is happy about it.
An online petition is calling for Victoria’s mayor and council to cancel Peterson’s May 19 appearance at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, arguing that Peterson’s views violate city policies and “jeopardize the safety and well-being of marginalized communities” due to past controversial comments on topics such as trans people, feminism, and Russia’s war on Ukraine. It also argues that as a city-owned venue, SOFMC should not be allowed to host Peterson.
“Peterson and his followers will often argue that protesting or calling for the cancellation of his events is a censorship or infringement on the freedom of expression,” wrote the petitioner, named as Eddi Wilson.
“However freedom of expression in Canada is not absolute especially when it comes to hate speech that incites violence against a particular defined racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, religious or other identifiable group.”
According to a spokesperson for Save On Foods Memorial Arena, thousands of tickets have already been sold.
While some worry about the impact Peterson’s views could have on marginalized communities, others say whether or not they agree with Peterson’s views they support his right to speak.
Victoria Coun. Stephen Hammond said there is little the city can do to stop the appearance.
“I’m not familiar with any particular policy that he might be violating. But we don’t run the facility. We just own the facility. And I think the city would be hard-pressed to start making decisions about who we liked, who we didn’t,” Hammond said.
Hammond has stated that the city does not have a specific policy to prevent Peterson’s appearance and believes that it would be difficult for the city to start picking and choosing who can speak at city-owned facilities.
“This is an issue of free speech. As a gay man, I am part of the equity community. And so I am concerned about what people have to say. At the same time, I have to put up with people’s ability to speak it in the same way I get to speak my mind,” said Hammond.
Despite the calls for cancellation, Save On Foods Memorial Arena has indicated that the event will proceed as scheduled.