Yet another Canadian university had blackballed yet another Canadian professor — this one fired for her controversial comments on residential schools — from giving a speech on its campus.

The University of Lethbridge said a speech by a former Mount Royal University professor, Frances Widdowson, who was fired in 2021 amid an uproar over her residential-school comments, wouldn’t be allowed space on campus.

But the academic said she still intended to show up and give her talk entitled, “How ‘Woke-ism Threatens Academic Freedom.'”

“They will have to call security and forcibly haul me away to stop me,” Widdowson told the CBC in an email on Monday.

And show up she did on Wednesday evening, only to be drowned out by protesters.

It used to be that university and college campuses were the crucibles for conflicting thoughts and freedom of expression.

But not anymore.

Today, more and more university brain trusts have sold out to the loudest voices, submitted their principles to the protesters and have buckled under the simplest of criticisms.

Gone is freedom of expression, which is a huge disservice to the student body whether it disagrees or not.

Conflicting views are the backbone of debate. Censorship serves no one but the spineless.

Mike Mahon, president and vice-chancellor of the university, wrote in a statement Monday that the U of L had sought guidance over the past few days upon learning of the planned lecture involving Widdowson. 

That was a turnaround from a last Thursday statement from the U of L. In that statement, Mahon wrote that Widdowson’s views were in conflict with those held by the university, including its stated commitment to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Widdowson, a tenured professor at Mount Royal, was fired from MRU in 2020 when she was criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement and espousing the educational benefits of residential schools.

However, the U of L statement also added the lecture would be allowed to proceed, citing its policies on free expression.

On Monday, however, Mahon had changed his tune, saying that the U of L had received “considerable input” from both internal and external communities.

“This input confirmed that assertions that seek to minimize the significant and detrimental impact of Canada’s residential school system are harmful,” Mahon wrote.

And so Widdowson’s speech was nixed.

One of two petitions calling for Widdowson to be denied access to the university read as follows:

“Frances Widdowson is a residential school denialist, Anti BLM, and trans rights critic who was fired by Mount Royal University for her controversial ideology. Her presence on campus not only denigrates the status of the University by giving space to a speaker who promotes historical falsities and racial bigotry, but endangers student’s well-being and safety.

“Although this was not organized by the University itself, the University should be focussed on Truth and Reconciliation. The reality is, that racist and harmful ideologies are coming on campus; silence is complicity. This is an act of violence upon its BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, and especially Indigenous students by allowing space for these ideologies to traumatize students in a space that is supposed to be safe and educating. 

“Freedom of speech is vital to the functioning of higher education, but Frances Widdowson’s ideology of “anti-wokeism” is not only based on historical falsities and racist bigotry, but student-well being and safety is more important than any guest speaker’s message. 

“Anti-wokeism is a fallacious ideology because things like critical race theory and Indigenous teachings are just as much a part of academic freedom and freedom of speech, but is labelled as “wokeism” by scholars such as Widdowson.”

Now there is one side of the story, and a fine set-up for a good debate.

All that was needed was Frances Widdowson.


  • Mark Bonokoski

    Mark Bonokoski is a member of the Canadian News Hall of Fame and has been published by a number of outlets – including the Toronto Sun, Maclean’s and Readers’ Digest.