Alberta promising changes to campuses amid university ‘woke’ free speech standoff
By Dean Bennett in Edmonton
The Alberta government says changes are coming to further protect free speech on campuses as a former professor speaking out on so-called “woke” policies prepares for a showdown with the University of Lethbridge.
Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides says he plans to announce the changes in the coming days but did not give details.
He was responding to the case of Frances Widdowson, a former tenured professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, who was invited then disinvited to speak on campus this week about her concerns that a mob mentality and “woke policies” increasingly threaten academic freedom.
Widdowson has previously come under fire for her comments on residential schools.
“I understand past comments made by this speaker are controversial,” Nicolaides said in a statement Tuesday.
“But I believe it is important for our universities and colleges to foster a strong culture of free speech and diverse viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are deemed controversial, or even offensive, barring speech intended to incite hatred or violence of course.”
Widdowson, asked about Nicolaides’ comment, said in an interview: “I think that’s great.
“I think we need a public inquiry about what’s happening at universities.
“The universities are being run by woke activists who are completely opposed to the open and honest discussion of ideas on campus.”
Widdowson was fired from Mount Royal in late 2021 amid controversy over comments she made lauding the educational benefits of Canada’s residential school system while questioning whether abuses at the schools against Indigenous children equated to “cultural genocide,” as described in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Widdowson was invited by a professor to speak Wednesday and the University of Lethbridge granted space for the event.
About 2,500 students signed a petition pushing back on the university for hosting the speech.
University president Mike Mahon, as late as last Thursday, defended the decision to host Widdowson, citing free speech even if the university did not agree with her views.
However, on Monday, Mahon said after further consultation the offer of space was revoked because Widdowson’s views would not advance the residential schools discussion and would cause harm by minimizing the pain and suffering inflicted on First Nations children and families.
“It is clear that the harm associated with this talk is an impediment to meaningful reconciliation,” said Mahon in a statement.
Widdowson said she plans to deliver her speech in a public atrium on the campus Wednesday afternoon and has challenged school security to toss her out.
“I’ve never denied the harm of the residential schools,” she told The Canadian Press.
“People are distorting what I’m saying about it. My issue is residential schools were not genocidal. (They) were a misguided effort which often had serious problems.”
“I’ve been branded as some kind of hate monger,” she added. “I’m just arguing if we want to create a better world for everyone, a more co-operative world, we have to be able to speak truthfully about issues that matter.”
Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Nicolaides is being distressingly tone-deaf and needs to reconsider his statements.
“The idea of having someone come and speak at the university … to a student body that consists of many Indigenous students about how they somehow benefited from residential schools is deeply troubling to me,” Notley told reporters.
“That the (United Conservative Party government) doesn’t understand how incredibly hurtful those ideas are to huge swaths of the Alberta population reveals their lack of understanding about the real experiences and traumas that treaty people in Alberta have been subjected to.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.
‘Always remember’: Funeral held for 2 Edmonton police officers killed on duty
A sheriff salutes during a procession for Edmonton Police Service Const. Travis Jordan and Const. Brett Ryan in Edmonton on Monday, March 27, 2023. The officers were killed in the line of duty on March 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
By Ritika Dubey and Angela Amato in Edmonton
Two police officers killed in the line of duty were honoured Monday at a regimental funeral with tears and tales of off-key crooning, birdies and beers, laughs and contagious joy.
Thousands of officers gathered with family members to say a formal goodbye to Edmonton police Const. Travis Jordan, 35, and Const. Brett Ryan, 30, at Rogers Place arena, the home area of the Edmonton Oilers.
“I’ll remember his smile, his wheezy laugh — we’ve been told we laugh the exact same way. I will always remember how excited he was when Brett found out he was going to be a dad, and I know that is one memory I will never lose,” Ryan’s pregnant widow, Ashley, said in her eulogy.
“You will live on in baby Ryan and they will know every last detail about how special you were to so many people and, most importantly, to me. I love you forever. I’ll miss you always.”
Jordan’s widow, Annie, stood silently beside police chaplain Roy Langer as he read her parting words.
“We didn’t have one hard day in 11 years,” she said through Langer.
“The world was really ours. We had already started leaving our mark in some many different places.”
The officers were shot at multiple times while responding to a family dispute on March 16. Police said the shooter, 16, then shot and wounded his mother during a struggle for the gun, before shooting and killing himself.
Jordan was remembered by colleagues as a valued officer of almost nine years, working to join the tactical squad. He came to Edmonton from Nova Scotia so he could realize his childhood dream of becoming an officer.
Sgt. Perry Getzinger and Sgt. Chris Gallahger remembered Jordan, or T.J., as a “great dog dad” to canines Teddy and B.J.
They recalled an excellent, ultracompetitive golfer who will live on in happy memories of lost balls and fairway trash talk from their “Birdies and Beers” golf trip.
Brodie Sampson, a childhood friend, said people who knew Jordan “were able to experience (his) kindness, contagious joy and unparalleled positivity even in the face of hardships.”
“(It) gets us through these hard times now,” he added.
Ryan, born in Edmonton, had more than five years’ service with the force after working as a paramedic.
Ashley Ryan recalled life with the man with “a crooked little grin,” who got up in the morning to have coffee and read the news in his fuzzy slippers, “because he was such an old man at heart.”
Her husband, she said, loved skydiving, baseball and their dogs, even the one who chewed up their couch.
Garett Ryan said his older brother loved trips to Las Vegas and Mexico, eating donairs and Baconator burgers. He remembered driving around with his brother, windows down belting out Kenny Chesney country music songs.
“I often called him my big little brother because that’s how much I looked up to him.”
The caskets were brought to Rogers Place in two hearses that inched their way through the downtown from the legislature under bright sun amid chill winds. They were followed by officers from across the country.
They marched eight abreast, arms swinging amid the pipes and drums of interspersed marching bands while onlookers lined the streets. Some held up placards with painted blue hearts, others placed their right hands over their hearts.
“We’re here to support all of the first responders but in particular our son, who is a police officer with Calgary Police Services,” said Jim Funk, who attended the procession with wife, Chris.
“We feel so sad, especially for the families of the two officers, but that extends out to the whole first responder family nationwide.”
Said Chris Funk: “It’s probably the worst nightmare families can experience.”
Two caskets, each draped in a Canadian flag, were carried into the arena on the shoulders of Edmonton police pallbearers.
The service was not open to the public but was livestreamed and broadcast outdoors at the Ice Plaza next to Rogers Place.
Dozens shivered in the cold to watch, including 15-year-old Charlie Dennis, whose father is an Edmonton officer.
“It’s nice to know that there are people around that would care and would show up,” she said.
Police continue to investigate the circumstances of the shooting and have said the same gun was used days earlier at a nearby Pizza Hut, leaving a man injured.
Police had also been called to the teen shooter’s home in November, apprehending him under the Mental Health Act before taking him to hospital for an assessment.
The day of the shooting, the boy’s mother called saying she was having trouble with her son. Police said there was no indication he had a gun or that the officers were walking into a high-risk or dangerous situation.
There have been 10 officers killed in the line of duty in Edmonton.
The most recent previous death was of Const. Daniel Woodall, who was shot in 2015 trying to enter the house of a suspect wanted for criminal harassment.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2023.
— With files from Dean Bennett
Japan to resume imports of Canadian processed beef, 20 years after mad cow disease
OTTAWA — Japan is lifting the last of its restrictions against Canadian beef, 20 years after BSE, often called mad cow disease, devastated this country’s cattle industry.
The federal government says Japan is reopening its doors to processed beef and beef patties from Canada.
The move puts an end to the market access barriers Japan put in place in 2003, after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was discovered in Alberta.
While Japan initially shut its border to all Canadian beef, it has been lifting restrictions in stages over the years, most recently with its 2019 decision to begin accepting Canadian beef from cattle older than 30 months of age.
The federal government says Japan is now Canada’s second-largest market for beef, with exports worth $518 million in 2022.
Around 40 countries closed their borders to Canadian beef during the height of the 2003 BSE crisis, resulting in billions of dollars in losses for the industry.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2023.
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