Hamilton: UNBF Controversy Reveals Campus Speech issues

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On Tuesday, January 16th the Brunswickan reported the findings of the above posters around the UNB Fredericton campus. The posters which first appeared to be distributed anonymously were credited to the National Socialist Canadian Labour Revival Party (NSCLRP) after an email was sent to the editor of the Brunswickan by an unnamed representative claiming leadership of the organization and taking responsibility for the distribution of the posters.

An investigation by the Brunswickan into the NSCLRP revealed its emergence on social media in late August 2017 and provided that the organization has since gained a small following by way of Facebook and a corresponding blog. By posting these flyers, the NSCLRP made a strong political standpoint opposing many left wing ideologies which has left several scholars and students outraged.

The poster implores it`s audience to “reject the anti-white narrative being pushed in media and academia” this message is further emphasized by the request to reconsider the historical implications of the residential schools as well as making the claim that “Overwhelmingly, Native Americans are beneficiaries and not victims of the society built by Europeans”. The poster then goes on to say that an unspecified enemy of Canada wishes to “divide and conquer” the region and calls on the unison of Native Americans and Europeans against a foreign threat. It becomes difficult to decipher the intended message of the poster as it covers a varying degree of highly controversial subjects but the last line “…the threat posed by the foreign invasion of our lands” is directly opposing mass immigration in Canada.

The posters, labeled as being white supremacist, quickly incited controversy on campus social media, with students and the public asking the university to take immediate action. UNBF Campus Security began an investigation and the Fredericton Police force has also become involved. These posters were condemned instantly by the university due to the intolerance of hate speech on campus. The intended message of this poster was veiled by an indirect title (the opposition of mass immigration and the defense of the portrayal of European heritage in universities are separate issues), and a left wing rant opposing the historical perspective of residential schools and questioning their overall impact was regarded as extremely inappropriate and offensive. The poster calls for the unison of the “Europeans and Native Americans” to come together as Canadians against mass immigration.

There are many issues with the way this party has chosen to present their unpopular underdeveloped opposition here but the argument can certainly be made that the posters do not directly contain hate speech, nor are they distinctly exhibiting racism here. A more obvious display of hate speech took place in the response to these posters with presumptuous name-calling and labels being distributed carelessly and without penalty. Whether or not you agree or disagree with the ideas presented by this group of individuals, the reaction to them seems extreme, problematic and oppressive.  All viewpoints need to be held to an academic standard, especially in a university setting, and if this poster was deemed unsuitable in supporting this viewpoint than it needs to be condemned on the grounds that the argument being made was not effectively communicated, researched, or proven.

There is a very big difference (but a very thin line) between the rejection of an idea and the suppression of one. Identifying a double standard in academia is extremely important. Allowing hate to come from one side of a political spectrum is not okay. Hate speech in any argument is not ok and while the university may provide an echo-chamber of politically correct, scrubbed and censored ideas, the real world issues are not always black and white. Students must be empowered to make the decisions about what literature, ideological standpoints, and political propaganda they accept to consume. Conformity should never be based off of fear. We are here to for all of the information, we are here to be critical and debate the important issues.

Emily is in her fourth year of Political Science. She loves studying and academics which follows into her research work. She's a stern black coffee drinker and is a proud Acadienne. When she's not working or doing school work, you can find Emily listening to 70s music on vinyl and watching Parks and Recreation. If you ask her about parliamentary institutions, she won't stop talking.