The University of Lethbridge will no longer host a Wednesday guest lecture from a controversial professor fired from Mount Royal University in 2021, following criticism from students and faculty at the school.
It’s an about-face for the southern Alberta university, which had previously said Frances Widdowson’s lecture would continue in alignment with the school’s mandate to protect free expression.
Widdowson, who has sparked controversy over comments espousing the benefits of residential schools, said in a Facebook post she intended to attempt to give the guest lecture on campus anyway.
“You will have to haul me away by security to stop me,” wrote Widdowson, who did not immediately respond to a Postmedia request for comment Monday.
U of L reverses course after ‘considerable input’
In a statement posted online Monday , University of Lethbridge president Mike Mahon said the university had received “considerable input” from people both internal and external to the school.
“This input confirmed that assertions that seek to minimize the significant and detrimental impact of Canada’s residential school system are harmful,” Mahon said.
“It is clear that the harm associated with this talk is an impediment to meaningful reconciliation.”
The university had been met with a barrage of criticism for planning to host Widdowson, including multiple student petitions opposing the lecture. Some faculty also pushed back, with the university’s Department of Indigenous Studies condemning Widdowson’s “anti-Indigenous rhetoric” in a statement.
In posts promoting the lecture online, Widdowson described the talk as being about how “woke-ism” threatens academic freedom. She had been invited by University of Lethbridge philosophy professor Paul Viminitz.
Widdowson has been met with criticism for her assertion that there were benefits to Canada’s residential school system, and her rejection of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s conclusion that the school system was “genocidal.” She also made headlines for public comments that the Black Lives Matter movement “destroyed” MRU .
Widdowson was fired from her job as a professor in MRU’s department of economics, justice and policy studies in December 2021 while facing heavy criticism for her views. While she’s continued to face backlash from some, others have lauded her as a champion of free speech.
A concurrent guest lecture from University of Manitoba professor Dr. Sean Carleton on residential school denialism is scheduled to take place at the University of Lethbridge on Wednesday.