Controversial speaker makes waves at U of R


author: ethan williams | staff writer


Dr. Saad speaking at the University of Regina earlier this month/Jaecy Bells

Dr. Saad says political correctness is not correct

Dr. Gad Saad says that everyone should have access to free speech, even those who deny the Holocaust. That message, and similar ones, were brought to the University of Regina’s Education Auditorium Monday night by Saad, who was the guest lecturer in the Deliberation and Debate series put on by the university. Saad’s lecture “Death of the West by a Thousand Cuts” was an overview of how, he claims, political correctness is ruining western culture.

The lecture, no doubt, raised eyebrows on campus because of these controversial views, and many brought forward concerns that the lecture would contain right-wing, or even fascist propaganda. Saad, however, cleared things up off the top, joking that people thought he would be a “Jewish Nazi” when, in fact, he claimed he is not at all.

The evening began with an introduction from a university representative, who spoke on behalf of President Vianne Timmons, and noted that the series was created because Timmons was concerned that debate and dialogue was becoming less civil, namely after the incident involving Bill Whatcott on campus last year. Timmons thought this series would be a good place to hold discussion.

Saad said that even though he believes political correctness is becoming more harmful to society, he is not in favour of rights being taken away from minority groups.

“I believe in strong adherence to truth while promoting the protection of black people, brown people, gay people, you name it. It’s not either-or. My intervention is not against transgender or gay people, it is against ideas that go against human dignity and truth.”

Saad pointed to various research conducted around the world that intended to show that political correctness is curtailing human life in the west. One such piece of research talked about the Harper Government’s statement that Canada would not be a country that accepted “barbaric cultural practices”, including forced child marriages, and mutilation of women’s genitalia. Saad pointed out that the Liberal ideology would also be against these cultural practices, but showed that Justin Trudeau, when hearing about the Conservative’s statement, did not agree with the term “barbaric”. Saad added that political correctness is hindering us from seeing the real problem of barbaric practices, not the word itself.

He also pointed to a 2015 Freedom Index survey done by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which showed that, on a scale showing grades of A (plentiful amounts of freedom), B, C, D, and F (limited amounts of freedom), Canadian universities scored 41 F’s and only 8 A’s. The U of R scored a C grade in university policies, an F in university practices, a D in student union policies, and a C in student union practices.

But not everyone is buying what Saad is proposing. Regina Public Interest and Research Group (RPIRG) Executive Director Krystal Lewis is one of those who feels the lecture was not in the public’s interest.

“We are not in favour of Dr. Saad speaking. The university, while saying that they want to proudly be a space that is open to thoughtful and civil debate, and hearing a wide range of opinions, also has a mandate to be an inclusive space and provide safe spaces for students to access education in ways that are appropriate and not harmful.”

Lewis says she is not against inviting speakers who may rock the boat, but says she is concerned that the university is not doing enough to deal with the issue that Dr. Saad’s speech may not meet the inclusivity mandate the university has set out.

“It doesn’t mean that you can’t have controversial people here, but I am frustrated by the lack of supports or other ways that the university is trying to reconcile this.”

When asked if she feels there needs to be limits to free speech, Lewis says she feels there is a line with hate speech laws, but says there are areas that complicate determining the limits.

“I think that [hate speech laws] provide a pretty firm line. I think, while there is that firm line, there’s a spectrum leading up to that, and I think there’s a lot of grey area that pushes up against that line and this is sort of the area that Dr. Saad operates in.”

Lewis said that RPIRG would not protest at the event, but noted that it is important for students to have the opportunity to challenge Saad’s words. Lewis also said that she would like to meet with those involved in the planning the lecture and talk with them about what they can do going forward, and state RPIRG’s views on this talk.

In the meantime, Saad says we need to rethink our ideas surrounding political correctness.

“Science, reason, and logic trump ideology and feeling”, read a line of text on his PowerPoint.

“No more language police, thought police, no more echo chambers that shun individuals. Honour the individual.”

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