A letter to the National Gallery of Canada

March 6, 2017

To Marc Mayer, Director of the National Gallery of Canada, and to Thomas P. d’Aquino, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the National Gallery of Canada,

We at Kind were disappointed and dismayed to hear that the National Gallery of Canada will be hosting Jordan Peterson for a talk on March 9, 2017. Kind urges the gallery to replace Mr. Peterson as the speaker in question, or cancel the event in its entirety if a suitable replacement can not be found.

As Canada’s oldest registered charity run by and for members of LGBTQ2SA+ communities, we at Kind constantly see the kind of hate that Mr. Peterson’s rhetoric props up, and the results of that rhetoric. It looks like bullying in schoolyards and on the internet. It looks like a higher than average homelessness rate among queer youth due to parental abandonment and abuse. It looks like a disproportionately higher than average assault and murder rate amongst trans women, and particularly trans women of colour.

Jordan Peterson and his views do not represent the progressive, multicultural image of the National Gallery of Canada. Going ahead with his scheduled talk, thereby giving him a platform, would deeply harm the reputation of the gallery. Art is a refuge and an exploration of freedom of expression, and providing a platform to a speaker such as Peterson marks the National Gallery as an unsafe space for a multitude of art-lovers from marginalized communities.

Mr. Peterson has repeatedly and publicly expressed disdain for the trans community through reducing the identity of non-binary individuals to talking points in his debates, and through his support for racist and transphobic public figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos, who used his platform to publicly out trans people to subject them to targeted hate campaigns, and Ken Zucker, the former head of the Gender Identity Clinic at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, who performed ‘reparative’ therapy on trans children. Mr. Peterson has gone on record conflating the issue of human rights protections under Toby’s Law in Ontario with authoritarianism, and publicly stated that he does not support hate speech laws.

Many of Mr. Peterson’s views can be argued as being protected under free speech laws; however the letter of the law is not the only tool with which social progress and respect for oppressed peoples can be gained. One does not have to commit a crime to be doing something wrong. It is for this reason that we do not appeal to the National Gallery of Canada citing hate speech laws, but rather we appeal to you as a collection of human beings who want a better Canada. Just as Jordan Peterson is free to state his opposition to hate speech laws and publicly support bigots without having to admit he is one himself, we are free to hold the opinion that his views are deplorable, and that to host him in an institution as respected as the National Gallery of Canada is to approve of and bolster the bigots who support him. In short, this is not a matter of free speech, but rather one of respect and decency.

Please do the decent thing, and remove Jordan Peterson as a guest of the National Gallery of Canada.