VANCOUVER, BC: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (www.jccf.ca) has issued a demand letter to the President of the University of British Columbia (“UBC”), warning that UBC will face legal action if it does not rescind its cancellation of a planned event featuring journalist Andy Ngo discussing Antifa violence.
In November 2019, The Free Speech Club, a student group at UBC, organized an event entitled “Understanding ANTIFA Violence” featuring Andy Ngo at UBC’s Robson Square campus, to take place on January 29, 2020.
Antifa, short for “anti-fascist,” is a loosely organized coalition of left-wing activists and self-described communist anarchists who use direct action, including vandalism, physical violence, threats, cyber attacks, and blockades, often to shut down events or protest opinions they oppose. Antifa protestors typically dress in black and wear masks to hide their faces.
Andy Ngo is a well-known journalist who frequently reports on Antifa protests and violence. His work has made him a target of Antifa. In June 2019, Mr. Ngo was violently attacked while documenting an Antifa protest in Portland, Oregon. Andy Ngo, who is of Vietnamese heritage and openly gay, is currently editor at large for The Post Millennial, a Canadian news website.
The Free Speech Club and UBC confirmed the Andy Ngo event booking with a contract on November 25, 2019, and The Free Speech Club paid the required booking deposit. However, in December 2019, the UBC Executive unilaterally cancelled the event without any prior notice to The Free Speech Club. On December 20, 2019, UBC emailed The Free Speech Club, stating that “[t]he reason for the cancellation is the concern about the safety and security of our campus community”. No specific concern was mentioned. If UBC had safety concerns, it did not communicate them to The Free Speech Club or make any efforts to address such concerns in the month leading up to the event. Rather, UBC cancelled the planned event outright.
Acting on behalf of The Free Speech Club, the Justice Centre issued a demand letter to UBC President Santa Ono on December 31, 2019, requesting that UBC reinstate the Andy Ngo event or face legal action. The letter states in part:
We urge that UBC not abandon one of “its primary functions” of “providing a forum where ideas can be expressed, debated and challenged”. Concerns for safety and security must be addressed in accordance with Canada’s rule of law as a free and democratic society.
Freedom must not be sacrificed to fear.
UBC has until January 10, 2020, to respond to the demand letter.
“There is a very twisted irony here, with UBC taking the anti-free-speech side of Antifa, and allowing Antifa to silence a man whom Antifa previously assaulted,” stated lawyer John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre. “Refusing to defend freedom of expression on campus jeopardizes the essential nature and purpose of the university and displays intellectual cowardice,” continued Carpay.
Angelo Isidorou, Director of The Free Speech Club, provided the following comments:
For the past three years, The Free Speech Club has hosted numerous public intellectuals from all over the political spectrum. I found myself shocked and bewildered to see the school take such an anti-freedom stance. I believe the school needs to not only protect free speech, but stand against violent thugs who seek to undo our freedom.
“The appropriate response to violent extremists who threaten access to information in the academy is not to give in to their demands by cancelling the event,” added Andy Ngo. “As is demonstrated over-and-over elsewhere, appeasing Antifa ideologues only emboldens them to make more demands. Their goal is to silence opposition through intimidation and violence.