Queen's Law

Faculty of Law
Faculty of Law

New Liberty Lecture series hosts Jordan Peterson  

(March 6, 2018)

Audience members line up to ask Jordan Peterson questions during the Liberty Lecture in Grant Hall on March 5.
Audience members line up to ask Jordan Peterson questions during the Liberty Lecture in Grant Hall on March 5. (Photo by Mark Erdman)

A capacity crowd of 900 came to Grant Hall on March 5 to hear Professor Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto give the inaugural Liberty Lecture. Peterson was in conversation with Queen’s Law Professor Bruce Pardy on “The Rising Tide of Compelled Speech in Canada.”

“Everyone has the right to liberty, to decide how to present themselves, how to be who they want to be,” said Pardy. But liberty, he added, goes both ways. “Liberty is not the right to demand that the world validate the choices that you make” and compel speech.

Peterson agreed on the importance of resisting compelled speech. “Something wouldn’t be serious if it didn’t have the possibility of frightening and offending people.”

Peterson and Pardy spoke for about 40 minutes on topics including Bill C16 and the Law Society of Ontario. They then responded to questions from the audience for the remainder of the 1.5-hour lecture, centering largely around freedom of speech issues, with Peterson as the main speaker and Pardy providing clarification around points of law. 

With Peterson a controversial figure for past comments on preferred pronouns for transgender persons, among other things, the event was protested by students both inside and outside the venue. A banner was unfurled on stage, the presentation was briefly disrupted by a person shouting at the speakers to “get off the stage.”

The Liberty Lecture series was established and supported by Greg Piasetzki, Law’80. Its funding terms state the lecture series’ intent as “bring to the Queen’s University campus authorities on topics related to the law and politics of individual liberty, its central role in liberal democracy and Western culture and the forces that threaten it.”

By Alexander McPherson