Does woke-ism threaten academic freedom? Fired Calgary university prof takes part in debate

Professor fired from Mount Royal University in Calgary takes part in an open debate “Does Woke-ism” Threaten Academic Freedom?

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On Saturday, September 16, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, Frontier Centre for Public Policy and the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship held a debate panel titled, “Does Woke-ism threaten Academic Freedom?” at the Lethbridge Public Library.

“Woke-ism” is a form of identity politics that stems from progressive ideologies and has become trendy with younger generations, especially in schools and universities. It's a herd mentality, you could say.

This debate was hosted by Jonah Pickle, a neuroscience student at the University of Lethbridge, Paul Viminitz, a philosophy professor at the University of Lethbridge, and Frances Widdowson, formerly a professor at Mount Royal University in the department of economics, justice, and policy studies.

You may remember Widdowson, who made headlines for speaking out against Black Lives Matter and further expressing her views on educational benefits of residential schools. On the subject  of BLM, she said the movement “destroyed” the university, and on residential schools said that children got an education they otherwise would have not received.

As a result of this, more than 6,000 people signed a petition to remove her from her position, and, after review, the university proceeded to fire her.

In February 2023, Widdowson was set to speak on the topic of woke-ism at the University of Lethbridge, but the event was cancelled due to controversy. She went there regardless, only to be greeted — and shouted down by — protesters wearing orange clothes and “Child Lives Matter” merchandise.

Due to the response of the university, Widdowson, Pickle, and Viminitz, in partnership with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, are taking the University of Lethbridge to court for violating their Charter-protected freedoms of expression and assembly.

While schools have historically been places for open discourse and the exchange of diverse ideas, there has been an increasing tendency to stifle this freedom. Examples include strict censorship of controversial topics, punitive actions against students and teachers who express dissenting views, and limitations on what can be discussed in classrooms.

Such restrictions not only hinder the development of critical thinking skills, but also infringe upon the fundamental right to free expression, which is essential for a healthy and democratic society.

Balancing the need for a safe and respectful learning environment with the preservation of free speech remains an ongoing challenge.

In this report, we listen to the debate between students, parents and members of the community with the three panellists, followed by an interview with Jonah Pickle, a student at the University of Lethbridge, Frances Widdowson, and more.

Rebel News is going to continue to follow the case of Frances Widdowson, who alongside her lawyer from the Justice Centre, are taking the University of Lethbridge to court after she was prevented from speaking at the university.

It's hard to believe, but Canada is becoming a dangerous place for free speech. Students, teachers and workers risk losing their positions when publicly expressing their views. Visit and sign the petition to fight for protection of our rights.

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