Debate and Fallout

On November 19th at 9:30 am, the University of Toronto hosted a debate to address the topics brought up by Peterson, more specifically Bill C-16 and the laws surrounding it.

Peterson was against the legislation, while Professors Brenda Cossman and Dr. Mary Bryson from UBC were on the side defending the legislation, and refuting comments made in Peterson’s YouTube videos. The debate broke down the Bill- C16 and law itself, which Prof. Cossman in response to Peterson’s claims. Peterson furthermore gave a speech during a discussion on the role of academia where he was refuted by Dr. Bryson.

After the initial announcement of the debate, U of T’s Students for Barrier-Free Access (SBA) who advocate for barrier free education, created the hashtag #NotUpForDebate in order to boycott the forum. The purpose of this boycott goes back to idea brought up by Professor Peet in the previous post. As stated in the Open Letter released by the Queer Caucus of CUPE 3902,

‘We object to the basic premise of this event. Human rights are not up for debate’  (SBA, 2016).

This can be tied to representation of other social movements, for example the #IdleNoMore movement, in which Indigenous resurgence has become a means of garnering support and fighting back against dominant society’s suppression of their existence. Students’ backlash to this event is mostly directed at the institution itself and for the fact that the University is allowing Peterson to continue to spread his messages of hate in a public and academically-sanctioned way. This leads to many students feeling even more vulnerable and unsafe as they are left with the sense that the institution does not support or care for their identities.

Dr. Mary Bryson, one of the speakers at the debate, is a non-binary professor at the University of British Columbia who uses the pronoun ‘they’. Post-debate, Bryson had slanderous articles written about them as well as received numerous death threats. Christine Blatchford from the National Post wrote an initial article on the debate which blasted both Cossman and Bryson. She then followed up with another article which blasts Bryson and tries to tarnish their reputation.

Blatchford found a student from 25 years ago who did not agree with Bryson’s teaching methods and subsequently used it against them to tarnish the latter’s academic integrity. Bryson has received numerous violent, transphobic and homophobic messages to her personal e-mail as well as through social media and during the live feed of the debate itself. UBC’s Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice institute has created a petition to support Bryson and to urge the University to stand behind her (McCabe, 2016). The petition urges “the University to release a statement affirming Dr. Bryson’s academic freedom and human rights and through this affirmation, the academic freedom and human rights of all members of our community”.

Linking this post to the overarching section, we can see that students and academic professionals are hand in hand fighting back against hate and Peterson’s comments. We can continue to do so by educating people who are misinformed. One tangible way of doing so its by signing the petition in support of Mary Bryson’s academic freedom and human rights here:

Read on to find out what more we can do, and how to move forward.


Image Credit: The Varsity


Blatchford, C. (2016, November 24). UBC prof who denounced U of T colleague in gender debate has skeletons in her own classroom. National Post. Retrieved from

McCabe, S. (2016, December 3). UBC prof Mary Bryson receives “violent threats” after debate on gender-neutral pronouns. The Ubyssey. Retrieved from

Student for Barrier Free Access. (2016). NotUpForDebate; SBA Responds to the University of Toronto Forum on Bill C-16. Retrieved from


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