Canada university withdraws permission for Tarek Fatah event

Tarek Fatah, who is of Pakistani origin, was scheduled to speak at Ryerson University in Toronto on August 10.
Tarek Fatah was scheduled to speak at Ryerson University in Toronto .(File Photo)
Tarek Fatah was scheduled to speak at Ryerson University in Toronto .(File Photo)
Updated on Aug 04, 2017 11:26 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Toronto | By

Provocative commentator Tarek Fatah was at the center of a controversy on Friday as a speech he was to deliver on the campus of a major Canadian university was cancelled by the administration without assigning any reason.

Fatah, who is of Pakistani origin, was scheduled to speak at Ryerson University in Toronto on August 10, an event that was part of the Canada India Foundation (CIF) Speaker Series.

However, CIF was informed by the university that the venue was no longer available for the lecture.

CIF’s executive director Vipul Jani was taken aback by the move: “We had booked nearly a month ago. I had checked and re-checked. They cancelled at the last minute without providing any reason. That puts us in a very difficult position.”

Jani contended the cancellation meant free speech was being stifled by Ryerson University.

“This is about a speech by a well-known Canadian figure. If we’re not allowed to organise such a speech, that does not speak very well about freedom of expression or about the environment on Canadian campuses which should encourage free speech and free debate, “ he said.

The organisers were expecting a full house at the lecture theatre to hear Fatah, he added.

Fatah did not respond to requests for comment from Hindustan Times.

Jani received a message from a Ryerson official which only stated that, according to its rules and regulations, the university “may revoke or cancel the permit at any time with or without cause”.

Fatah’s views, particularly relating to Islamist ideology, have often been considered controversial, though Ryerson has not stated that was the cause behind the cancellation.

Johanna VanderMaas, a spokesperson for the University, did not respond to an email and a voice mail left on her cellphone seeking comment on the matter.

The Toronto Sun quoted VanderMaas as saying, “Unfortunately, Ryerson was unable to accommodate the Canada-India Foundation’s room booking request for August 10; we have expressed our apologies to Mr. Jani and CIF. The university is not aware of any concerns or plans to disrupt Mr Fatah’s keynote address.”

Jani said the event will be held on the same day but at a different venue and CIF is intimating those who had registered for it about the change. But he was perturbed by Ryerson’s decision, as he said, “This is not really a very good sign, this is supposed to be a free society.”

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