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Friday, September 7, 2018

Oh word, Rick Mehta was fired

Acadia University terminates professor after investigation into racist, sexist comments made both in and out of the classroom.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2018 at 5:16 PM

Acadia University professor free speech convention darling Rich Mehta. - VIA YOUTUBE
  • Acadia University professor free speech convention darling Rich Mehta.
  • VIA YOUTUBE

Congratulations to Rick Mehta on what will surely be a windfall for his personal brand.

The associate psychology professor has been fired by Acadia University after an investigation into multiple complaints about his sexist, racist and transphobic comments.

Scott Roberts, spokesperson for Acadia, confirms to The Coast that the professor has been let go.

“We can confirm that Dr. Rick Mehta, a professor in Acadia University’s department of psychology, has been dismissed by the university,” Roberts states. “As this is a personnel matter, the university will provide no additional comments or respond to requests for further details.

In an interview with former Ontario PC candidate Andrew Lawton (who himself has a history with hateful remarks about several equity-seeking communities), Mehta claims his termination letter cited issues that “were wide-ranging and include failure to fulfill academic responsibilities, unprofessional conduct, breach of privacy, and harassment and intimidation of students and other members of the university community.”

Mehta claims he was unable to see copies of the investigations completed by Dalhousie law professor Wayne MacKay and Acadia dean of science Jeff Hooper unless agreeing “to be broadly gagged.”

Mehta's attempts at online fame have earned him a following in some circles as a Jordan Peterson-type figure who stands for freedom of speech on university campuses.

The investigations into his behaviour, however, were launched after multiple complaints by students, faculty and other Acadia community members about Mehta's “racist and transphobic comments” in and out of the classroom.

Mehta would allegedly devote excessive amounts of class time to unrelated lectures, using “right-wing fringe websites” to attack feminism or deny the gender wage gap rather than teaching the required material.

In a letter from psychology department head Rob Raeside, which Mehta himself shared on social media last winter, it's stated that students had stopped attending Mehta's classes because of the professor’s rants.

“The students have not expressed in writing the precise details of the racist and transphobic comments, but it is clear from their interactions with me that they are extremely disturbed by your comments, some to the point of not going to class,” writes Raeside.

Mehta has also been claimed residential schools weren't as bad as the testimony from Indigenous survivors suggests, supported the rights of white nationalists to poster the Acadia campus and publicly named a rape victim from his class to hold her “responsible.”

Acadia has throughout the investigation process maintained it has a legal obligation to look into student complaints and provide an environment free from harassment and discrimination.

But that likely won't stop other free-speech warriors from turning Mehta's termination into a story of political oppression. It's already happened on Lawton’s blog.

“Mehta’s firing is the culmination of an ideological witch hunt rather than any genuine wrongdoing,” writes the former political candidate. “Especially taking into account how the initial investigation materialized mere weeks after Mehta started challenging Acadia’s ‘decolonization initiatives.’ It came days after he critiqued the role of feminism in one of his first-year courses.”

Free speech, it's probably worth noting, is a legal right protecting individuals from unnecessary censorship by the Canadian government. Academic freedom, on the other hand, is the right for a professor not to be unduly censored by their university. The latter is a much smaller shield.

In a press release sent Friday afternoon, Acadia University's Faculty Association says it has already filed for arbitration to examine the evidence for Mehta’s dismissal.

“The termination of a tenured professor is very serious,” writes the AUFA in a brief statement. 
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City hall lawyers say smoking ban needs to include tobacco

Halifax staff reason it'll be nearly impossible to prosecute cannabis smokers if we can't also prosecute cigarette smokers.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2018 at 4:19 PM

Flawless reasoning there, you guys. - THE COAST
  • Flawless reasoning there, you guys.
  • THE COAST

A new staff report recommends Halifax continue its prohibition for all types of smoking on public property—that is if the city ever wants to be successful in prosecuting cannabis users.

City council passed new bylaw amendments back in July outright banning smoking and vaping on municipal property outside of specially designated smoking areas.

The motion was met with immediate and sustained condemnation across the municipality. So loud was the outcry, that Dartmouth Centre councillor Sam Austin asked for a follow-up report at council's very next meeting looking at removing tobacco from the restrictions.

“This feels very bureaucratic,” said Austin. “It feels like micromanagement of the public space and I just can’t say what the underlying practical purpose of doing it is.”

City solicitors Derk Slaunwhite and Josh Judah have now returned with that staff report, but are recommending council keep cigarettes illegal for the sake of public health and the courts.

The current bylaw means the Crown only has to prove someone was smoking on municipal property. There’s no need to actually prove what they were smoking.

Changing that ban to restrict only cannabis—a soon-to-be legal product that Halifax has decided to criminalize—will be difficult to enforce, says staff.

“Investigators will need to get close enough to the offender to see what they are smoking and to smell the smoke,” write Slaunwhite and Judah. “Courts may also require some level of scientific analysis that the substance being smoked was in fact cannabis.”

If council does decide to limit the smoking ban to cannabis, staff suggest a new provision should be added so that judges can “infer the offender smoked cannabis when a witness describes the substance as cannabis.”

Permit Patty to be renamed Cannabis Cathy in Halifax. - VIA YOUTUBE
  • Permit Patty to be renamed Cannabis Cathy in Halifax.
  • ViA YOUTUBE

It's worth noting that Halifax Regional Council does not have any authority to decide what evidence a provincial court judge should or should not consider.

Also, given how much of the criticism about this nuisance bylaw has been on how it will unfairly target poor and racialized residents, it's unlikely that widening the potential for discrimination from city police to any old pot-smelling “witness” will be met with less vocal resistance from the public.

None of those concerns are contained in the staff report, however, which chiefly is focused on eradicating the public health risk posed by cigarette smokers.

“A prohibition against smoking on municipal property will help increase the number of non-smokers in the municipality,” write Slaunwhite and Judah.

Nova Scotia’s chief public health official has cited non-smoking policies as a crucial catalyst for the province’s declining smoking rates over the past 20 years.

Banning darts on municipal property would make everyone that much healthier, argue HRM staff.

“To continue to increase the rate of non-smokers in Nova Scotia, especially among youth, we need to strengthen and advance smoke-free environments.”

Along with the above recommendations, staff are also proposing a handful of housekeeping amendments for the renamed Smoking and Nuisance Bylaw.

The current document uses both “public place” and “weed.” Staff are recommending replacing those with the more accurate “municipal property” and “cannabis.”

Smokers in violation of the new bylaw face potential fines ranging from $50 to $2,000 for flagrant abuse. Tickets will be largely complaint-driven and handed out during the days by municipal bylaw officers and during the night by Halifax Regional Police if they feel like it.

The bylaw changes are currently scheduled to come into effect for October 1, allowing for a two-week adjustment period before cannabis becomes legal nationwide on October 17.

Council will discuss whether to puff or pass on these changes when they meet Tuesday at City Hall.
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Matt Whitman and Faith Goldy

Halifax councillor appears to be a fan of the outspoken white nationalist running for mayor in Toronto.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2018 at 11:10 AM

whitman.jpg

Matt Whitman doesn’t want you to get the wrong impression about his support for Toronto’s most prominent white-nationalist mayoral candidate.

“Retweeting for a friend. Stay calm,” writes Whitman in a retweet from earlier this week of Lindsay Shepherd’s March 22 Macleans story, “Why I invited Faith Goldy to Laurier.”

The Hammonds Plains–St. Margarets councillor has since deleted the post and subsequently put up a screenshot of his own Twitter bio, which reminds the public that “likes and RTs are not necessarily endorsements.”

screen_shot_2018-09-04_at_10.26.28_am.png

It's the second time the councillor has tweeted about Goldy, a far-right internet personality and white nationalist running for mayor of Toronto who Whitman endorsed three weeks ago.

After Goldy complained last month that journalists weren’t providing her with enough mainstream media coverage, the bedridden Whitman—still recuperating from a motorcycle accident—sent out a tweet promising to cover her campaign himself. Whitman capped off the tweet with a hashtagged “GoGoldy.”

Politically, the two public figures share traditional conservative thoughts on small government and pro-business policies. But whatever Goldy's campaign platform, it pales in comparison to her past comments on white nationalism.

The divisive Goldy has, over the course of her media career, repeatedly stated that the white race is facing a cultural and ethnic genocide from non-white groups. As Martin Patriquin writes for iPolitics: “She believes the 2016 shooting in a Quebec City mosque was a Muslim conspiracy; and she favourably quoted the work of a Romanian fascist who called for the elimination of the Jewish race.”

She was previously a contributor for right-wing new site Rebel Media, where she published video reports with titles such as, “While migrants rape their way across the continent, where are Europe’s men?”

In 2016, she visited Halifax to investigate the already-discredited Chronicle Herald story about Muslim children choking their classmates with chains at Chebucto Heights Elementary. In a series of video “investigations” for the Rebel, Goldy theorized that the “real” story was being covered up by both the Herald and the Halifax Regional School Board.

While on assignment in Israel last year, Goldy stated that “Bethlehem’s Christian population has been ethnically cleansed,” advocated for launching “a new Crusade” to “reclaim Bethlehem” and said it’s “a fact” that Jewish people are “frankly wealthier and smarter than us.”

She was eventually fired from Rebel Media after reporting from the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia without the permission of her boss. During that coverage, Goldy called Richard Spencer’s manifesto to organize the United States along racial divides as “robust” and “well-thought-out.” She also appeared on a neo-Nazi podcast where she recited the “14 words” mantra of white supremacy.


Earlier this year, while protesting outside a conference on white privilege held at Ryerson University, Goldy said that “in-group preference” for one's race is the natural way of the world.

“You see it in birds. You see it in humans,” she told one blogger. “And Europeans, through the Enlightenment and the cancerous thought that came therein, had that bred outside of them, and now they’re being preyed on as a collective...I mean, where is the white supremacy when every single European nation is about to see whites become a minority, basically in the next 40 years?”

Someone put up fliers on mailboxes around Tantallon and St. Margarets Bay with Whitman's #GoGoldy tweet, a screen cap of Goldy’s Wikipedia and information on how to contact the clerks’ office to file an official complaint. - VIA HFX REDDIT
  • Someone put up fliers on mailboxes around Tantallon and St. Margarets Bay with Whitman's #GoGoldy tweet, a screen cap of Goldy’s Wikipedia and information on how to contact the clerks’ office to file an official complaint.
  • VIA HFX REDDIT
Goldy’s notion that Canada’s “European way of life” is under attack is remarkably similar to another racial treatise Whitman has previously supported.

Back in February, the councillor came under fire after retweeting a letter from white nationalist group ID Canada that claimed that “European history and peoples are being dismantled.”

The “identitarianism” organization had sent the open letter to city hall in protest of Halifax council’s vote to temporarily remove the statue of Edward Cornwallis.

“The contents of the letter, there was nothing offensive there,” Whitman would later tell reporters, even after he had deleted the tweet and apologized. “It talked about European settlers and what not. How is that offensive?”

ID Canada, like Goldy and other far-right voices, often use “European” and “Euro-Canadian” to warn against the supposed dangers of immigration and propagate white genocide conspiracy theories.

Whitman said at the time that he was unaware of the loaded racial language, but that he still stood by the group's message—just not the people who wrote it.

Pending his recovery time, Whitman will be at Halifax City Hall on Tuesday as council reconvenes from a summer break to discuss the latest update on widespread racial discrimination happening within HRM’s workforce.
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Vol 26, No 24
November 8, 2018

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