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University of Lethbridge students push back against controversial speaker

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The University of Lethbridge says a controversial guest speaker appearance will go ahead, despite pushback from some students.

The university says a faculty member at the school has scheduled Frances Widdowson to speak on Feb. 1.

The former MRU professor made headlines in 2020 for criticizing Black Lives Matter and espousing the educational benefit of residential schools.

Widdowson was fired from Mount Royal University in January 2022, after more than 6,000 students signed a petition calling for her to be fired.

Despite pushback from U of L students, the university says its mandate affirms freedom of expression and the event will take place as scheduled.

In a statement, U of L president Mike Mahon said, "The university does not tolerate behaviour that undermines the safety of our diverse community. And the university will restrict expression that violates the law, defames an individual or that constitutes a threat of harassment."

The U of L said an opposing position talk has been arranged to counter Widdowson's speech but some students said that isn't enough.

"The University of Lethbridge really prides itself on its Indigenous name and land acknowledgments," said Jason Ranaghan, of the U of L Student Action Assembly,

"And to see someone who has not only made one or two off-end comments, but has made her entire academic career off of defaming and denying the existence and painful history of residential schools is extremely disheartening to see."

Jason Ranaghan from University of Lethbridge Student Action Assembly

"It feels like a slap in the face," Ranaghan added, "to all the work that they're doing."

The Student Action Assembly says it's planning a peaceful protest outside the classroom where the speech will be held.

With files from Cynthia Roebuck

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