Alberta promising changes to campuses amid university 'woke' free speech standoff

'Woke' free speech standoff

The Alberta government says changes are coming to further protect free speech on campuses as a former professor speaking out on so-called “woke” policies prepares for a showdown with the University of Lethbridge.

Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides says in a statement he will be announcing the changes in the coming days but did not give further details.

He says he was responding to the case of Frances Widdowson, a former tenured professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University invited by a University of Lethbridge professor to speak this week about her concerns that a mob mentality and “woke policies” increasingly threaten academic freedom.

Widdowson was fired from Mount Royal in late 2021 amid controversy over her comments lauding the educational benefits of Canada’s residential school system while questioning whether the abuses of the schools against Indigenous children could be called genocide.

The University of Lethbridge granted Widdowson space for the event but cancelled it this week after deciding her views would not advance the residential schools debate and would cause harm by minimizing the pain and suffering inflicted on First Nations children and families.

Widdowson says she plans deliver the speech on campus Wednesday afternoon anyway and has challenged school security to toss her out.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley says Nicolaides needs to reconsider his statements, adding he is being distressingly tone-deaf to students — particularly Indigenous ones — who would otherwise have to host a guest lecturer espousing the virtues of schools stained by the legacy of horrific abuse.

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