St. Mary's cancels immigration debate due to security risks

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Saint Mary’s University in Halifax cancelled a debate on race and racial discrimination that was to take place Monday between an SMU philosophy professor and a controversial American writer.

The debate was to feature Jared Taylor, editor of American Renaissance, a publication known to advocate white supremacy.

In a press statement, SMU stated the debate was cancelled because of security concerns, and though it supports academic freedom and freedom of speech, it also had “an obligation to provide a safe environment for members of the campus community and those who visit campus.”

Professor Peter March, who arranged the debate with Taylor without the university’s support, said SMU was pushed to cancel the event after discovering information on a blog stating Taylor would be “cut up with a knife” if he spoke at SMU.

Taylor said the information was fabricated but SMU cancelled the event anyway.

In January, Dalhousie University cancelled a debate to be held between Taylor and Professor David Divine, chair of Black Canadian Studies.

Instead, Taylor held a lecture at the Lord Nelson Hotel in Halifax. Protesters, some wearing bandanas over their faces, refused to let him speak and physically forced him out of the room.

March is also familiar with controversy; last year he caught the university and media’s attention by posting controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed on his office door to make a statement about academic freedom and promote debate on campus.

“It’s a violation of academic freedom,” March said of the cancellation. “I’ll be grieving through my union and through the Canadian Association of University Teachers.”

Taylor was equally unhappy with the university’s decision.

“They were very nervous about [the debate] happening on their campus because their campus is dominated by political correctness, so they clutched to any opportunity that came along to cancel it,” Taylor said.

“[The University officials] were more or less forced into this by Professor March in the name of freedom of speech. So, they were looking for any possible way to be spared the agony of doing something not politically correct.”

Taylor and March agreed to pay for six security guards. Attendees were to be searched and no one wearing a mask would be admitted.

The main points of controversy in Taylor’s discourse are his comments on how immigration leads to violence and conflict.

Though he disagrees with Taylor’s views, March thinks they should be debated and not ignored by the Canadian public.

He believes Canadians are hypersensitive about discussing race because of cultural insecurities.

“The reason is that secretly [Canadians] are afraid if they open up a discussion about race, they will find out that they themselves are racists and that they’re unable to overcome the issue even when the evidence is totally persuasive that racism is an unjustified part of social policy.”

March and Taylor are looking to hold the debate at another venue.

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