John Carpay: Canada’s Regulatory Colleges Have No Business Monitoring Speech

John Carpay: Canada’s Regulatory Colleges Have No Business Monitoring Speech
Jordan Peterson speaks at the 2018 Student Action Summit at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Dec. 20, 2018. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)
John Carpay

The suppression of free speech is almost always based on arrogance, and boils down to “free speech for me, but not for thee.” The College of Psychologists of Ontario demands that Dr. Jordan Peterson submit to mandatory re-education (the college calls it a “coaching program”) to make his public expression of opinion conform to the college’s progressive ideology.

The college claims that various political and cultural comments made by Dr. Peterson are “degrading, demeaning, unprofessional, disgraceful and dishonourable,” and that they pose “moderate risks of harm to the public” such as “undermining public trust in the profession of psychology.”

The world-famous author, podcaster, and political commentator has been registered with the college as a clinical psychologist since 1999 but stopped seeing patients in 2017. Nevertheless, the most famous Canadian on the planet has maintained his membership in the college and refers to himself publicly as a clinical psychologist.

The complaints against Dr. Peterson are not about how he cared for his patients. Rather, complaints have come from people who disagree with his comments on cultural and political topics like racism, transgenderism, and feminism. A life-long student of totalitarianism as practised by the National Socialists in Germany (1933–1945) and by the international socialists (communists) in the Soviet Union (1917–1991) and other countries, Dr. Peterson has repeatedly warned of the dangers of slowly losing our freedom of expression.

As summarized by Justices Backhouse, Schabas, and Krawchenko, who are sitting as a Divisional Court panel of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the comments to which the college objected include the following:

(a) A tweet on Jan. 2, 2022, in which Dr. Peterson responded to an individual who expressed concern about overpopulation by stating, “You’re free to leave at any point.” (b) Various comments made on a Jan. 25, 2022, appearance on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, where Dr. Peterson is identified as a clinical psychologist and spoke about a “vindictive” client whose complaint about him was a “pack of lies.” Speaking about air pollution and child deaths, Dr. Peterson said (with sarcastic irony), “It’s just poor children, and the world has too many people on it anyways.” (c) A tweet on Feb. 7, 2022, in which Dr. Peterson referred to Gerald Butts as a “prik.” (d) A tweet on Feb. 19, 2022, in which Dr. Peterson commented that Catherine McKenney, an Ottawa city councillor who uses they/them pronouns, was an “appalling self-righteous moralizing thing.” (e) In response to a tweet about actor Elliot Page being “proud” to introduce a trans character on a TV show, Dr. Peterson tweeted on June 22, 2022, “Remember when pride was a sin? And Ellen Page just had her breasts removed by a criminal physician.” (f) A further complaint about Dr. Peterson’s Jan. 2, 2022, tweet in which he responded to an individual who expressed concern about overpopulation by stating, “You’re free to leave at any point.” (g) Dr. Peterson’s tweet posted in May 2022, commenting on a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition plus-sized model, “Sorry. Not Beautiful. And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.”

On Nov. 22, 2022, a disciplinary panel of the college ruled that Dr. Peterson “appeared to be engaging in degrading comments about a former client and making demeaning jokes” on the “Joe Rogan Experience.” The college felt that by referring to Elliot Page as “her” and by using Elliot’s former name, and “by calling Catherine McKenney an ‘appalling self-righteous moralizing thing’… Dr. Peterson may be engaging in degrading, demeaning, and unprofessional comments.” The college felt that referring to the physician who removed Elliot Page’s breasts as a “criminal” is “inflammatory and unprofessional.” The college regards the Gerald Butts and Sports Illustrated comments as “disgraceful, dishonourable and/or unprofessional.”

Predictably, the college has also asserted that it “in no way disagrees that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees Dr. Peterson a right to freedom of expression.” The “professional standards and ethics” used by the college to censor Dr. Peterson happen to have been created by the college and are now interpreted and enforced by the college. If a psychologist says something the college dislikes, it can simply declare those comments to be “unprofessional” or “unethical” or both. That ends the debate. This makes it possible for the college to join so many other censors, presently and throughout history, who say: “I like free speech, as long as you say what I like.”

That the court sided with the college against Dr. Peterson is not surprising, considering the fact that Canada’s Chief Justice, Richard Wagner has stated publicly that he is “proud” of his Supreme Court being “progressive.” Many Canadian judges would reject this ideological bias, but a public declaration of this kind, from the leader of the highest court in the land, does set the tone for other courts.

The three-judge panel held that the forced re-education of Dr. Peterson is nothing to worry about because it is merely “remedial” and not “disciplinary,” and will have only a “minimal” impact on Dr. Peterson’s right to freedom of expression.

The court split hairs by declaring that it “was not necessary to engage in whether Dr. Peterson’s comments were supported by facts or were his honest opinion, as the concern arises from the nature of the language used, not the validity of his opinions.” So, truth and facts don’t matter to this court; it’s all about some mysterious “nature of the language used” that empowers the college to censor the speech of psychologists.

It’s no different for nurse Amy Hamm, currently being prosecuted by the British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives for stating publicly that there are only two sexes, and that women deserve their own safe spaces (washrooms, changerooms, female-only sporting events, female prisons, etc.) where biological males may not enter.

In like manner, law societies across Canada are now monitoring the speech of lawyers, even forcing lawyers to express agreement with beliefs and goals that individual lawyers disagree with.

In this way, “professional standards” become the pretext for silencing Canadian doctors, nurses, psychologists, accountants, lawyers, teachers, engineers, and other professionals who espouse conservative, libertarian, traditionalist, classical liberal, or other non-woke, non-progressive opinions.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.