The “N word” divides in Ottawa

While the political class in Quebec is unanimous in the “N word” affair, federal politicians are divided. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the leader of the NDP and that of the Green Party sided with those who condemn any articulation of the word “nigger”. But the Conservative and Bloc leaders, on the other hand, shared the opinion of the Quebec parties, arguing that academic freedom should not be forgotten in this debate.

The leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, has been calling on the Prime Minister for two days to defend pedagogical freedom and to calm the crisis which is shaking not only the University of Ottawa but the entire university world.

“Everything is in the intention,” said Blanchet Thursday. “To humiliate, belittle, abuse, discriminate, that deserves more than a suspension. This calls for a layoff. But teaching, raising awareness, explaining, putting into context, analyzing, developing a critical mind, that’s the teacher’s job, ”argued the Bloc leader, in the wake of the controversy surrounding the use of the N word. in class by a professor of art history from the University of Ottawa.

M. Blanchet assures us that he himself would not use the word. “Because I think indeed, there are very few contexts where it is anything other than the perpetuation of demeaning and contemptuous behavior. But he makes a distinction with a conversation that takes place in an academic context. “In the context of teaching, I do not believe that the evocation of a notion makes the speaker guilty of the gesture for which the word is criticized. “

Some have observed a linguistic divide between the reactions to this debate offered in Quebec and the rest of Canada. French-speaking professor Verushka Lieutenant-Duval and the colleagues who defended her – also French-speaking – have been strongly criticized and their belonging to French Canada underlined.

The leader of the Conservative Party, Anglophone Erin O’Toole, however, also sided with them and Mr. Blanchet’s. “The Conservatives believe in the principle of freedom of expression. And, especially on university campuses, we should have freedom of expression and good debates “, he reacted Thursday, denouncing the” cancel culture “. “It is important to be respectful, especially for someone in a position of authority such as a teacher,” O’Toole said. But we should seek a point of balance that respects debate, freedom of expression while respecting the individuals who are in the classroom. “

Yves-François Blanchet wants Prime Minister Trudeau to defend this principle in turn. “We must, regardless of our political orientations, that we appease this crisis because it is taking a proportion which puts in danger something much more serious than our political orientations: the quality of education. “

Mr. Trudeau contented himself with retorting on Wednesday that “everyone should be aware of the significance of our words.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland argued Thursday that her government will “always stand up for academic freedom.” […] At the same time, we need to be aware of the reality that we have systemic racism in our country and we need to act against that too ”.

Greens and New Democrats rebuff Blanchet

The leader of the Green Party, Annamie Paul, who is herself Black, quickly replied to her Bloc counterpart on Twitter. “Have we ever called Yves-François Blanchet by the N word? I do, and it hurts every time, “she told him, inviting him to contact her” before making statements about a problem he does not understand. “

Professor Lieutenant-Duval wanted to talk to her students about the re-appropriation of certain words by minority communities that were originally insulting to them.

The new head of the Greens, however, believes that the word should be completely banned from the vocabulary of white people. It leaves the choice to black people to use it between themselves. “But it’s quite possible to discuss this word, its history, in an academic context without using it,” she argued this week.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh agreed on Thursday, noting that the legitimacy of academic debates should not be “confused” with the word’s “painful” emotional legacy. “Universities must obviously remain independent, institutions free to hold open discussions. But there is no doubt that when a word like this is used – whether it strikes a community, hurts, or causes fear – one must focus on the effect it has on students. “

Racial tensions seen from Le Devoir



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