Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre declines to host book launch for controversial University of Toronto professor

He’s a magnet for controversy and it appears Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre would rather avoid hosting an outspoken University of Toronto psychology professor.

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Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor who sparked debate when he said he would refuse to use gender-neutral pronouns, is on tour to promote a new book. He says the Citadel Theatre cancelled his Feb. 11 event without any explanation, calling the decision “regrettable, made in haste, and unprofessional.”

The theatre, however, said the contract to secure the venue was never finalized and Peterson “prematurely announced” it.

“The Citadel Theatre reserves the right to refuse events that are not in keeping with our mandate, values or vision statement,” the theatre said in a statement. “Upon review of this event, we determined this event was one we should refuse on that basis, and advised Dr. Peterson that his request to rent the venue was declined without acceptance of his deposit for the rental.”

The Citadel Theatre’s website does not list its values or or mandate, but its vision statement says the theatre’s programs and practices are to be “inclusive, innovative and international.”

Peterson, a former Harvard University professor whose YouTube channel has hundreds of thousands of subscribers, is still planning to visit Alberta’s capital next month to promote his new book.

Peterson’s publicist said they are looking for a new venue.

In May, The Globe and Mail reported Peterson spoke out at a Senate committee hearing against Bill C-16, legislation aimed at enshrining the rights of transgender people in Canada.

He argued the bill could infringe on freedom of expression and said that both support for the legislation and the belief that biology does not determine gender “stem from the humanities and are entirely ideologically driven.”

READ MORE: Polarizing professor to talk free speech, political correctness, at Western University

In November, the University of Toronto’s student newspaper — The Varsity — reported that hundreds of people had signed an open letter calling for Peterson’s termination from the institution. Among the grievances cited in the letter were the transgender pronoun controversy as well as a video he uploaded to YouTube in which he suggested men can’t control “crazy women” because men are not allowed to physically fight them.

The Citadel Theatre’s decision not to host the book launch saw some on social media suggest the theatre is squelching free speech.

“This anti-free speech movement is scary and deplorable,” tweeted one Twitter user who calls himself Papa Smurf.

“Obviously, we cannot rely on the @citadeltheatre to be a champion for free speech and a free press. Ironic,” tweeted Terry McConnell. “Wonder what the world’s besieged playwrights would think.”

Marni Panas, a transgender Edmonton woman and advocate for sexual minorities, disagreed.

“We need to all show our support for @citadeltheatre for staying true to their values,” Panas tweeted. “Inevitably they are receiving plenty of backlash for this decision.

“Question shouldn’t be about impact of Jordan Petersen not being able to speak as planned on “free speech” (don’t worry, he’ll be fine). We should be asking how to create opportunities for marginalized people, who are often silenced by loud voices like those of JP, to be heard.”

Panas also suggested the Citadel Theatre’s adherance to its “mandate and values” should be seen as its way of embracing freedom of expression.

-With files from Brenton Driedger

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