Frances Widdowson met by 700 protesters at University of Lethbridge; speech moves to Zoom

Frances Widdowson met by 700 protesters at University of Lethbridge; speech moves to Zoom

A large crowd of around 700 students, faculty members and Lethbridge residents came out on Wednesday to protest a planned speech by Frances Widdowson at the University of Lethbridge, which did not take place.

When Widdowson arrived on campus, she met and conversed with Indigenous students, faculty, and community members while students surrounded her, shouting, and sometimes singing and playing guitar.

Each time Widdowson was forced to move farther from the atrium, loud applause and cheers erupted from the crowd.

Widdowson was fired from Mount Royal University in 2020 after speaking out critical of Black Lives Matter and saying that the dorm school system had some educational advantages.

Fourth-year Aboriginal Health student Keely Wadsworth said she spent last summer recording the incidents that took place at six different hostels in the Blood Reserve.

“I know every single incident, I know every single death that’s happened,” Wadsworth said. “How do you take all this knowledge and think it’s positive?”

“I support the cancellation 100 per cent because of the risk of misinformation for people who have not previously gathered – the boarding school has not been positive.”

A handful of those present appeared to support Widdowson, who was still expected to deliver her talk via Zoom.

CTV News was told she was removed from campus over safety concerns.

U of L President Mike Mahon made a statement after the event.

“Earlier tonight, over 700 students, staff and faculty, and community supporters took part in a protest against a controversial speaker, and another large group attended a presentation on the importance of truth before reconciliation. Tonight’s events were a coming together of our community to show support for one another and a reflection of the values ​​of the University of Lethbridge,” the statement said.

“I want to offer my sincere appreciation to our community members for acting so peacefully and powerfully.”

Earlier Wednesday, the university made speeches opposing Widdowson’s views.

Metis Councilor Brittany Lee said her organization offers support to the more than 2,000 Metis people who live in the Lethbridge area.

“If they feel they need help, they can contact the local authorities,” Lee said.

“My reaction is just that as a group we believe that education should be the means to repair the damage done to our people by the boarding school system.

“No means of rehashing some of the tragic events of the past.”

Wadsworth said the large turnout in support for the Indigenous student community was heartwarming.

“I grew up in Lethbridge where we had no support. And now in 2023 we have all this support on campus that is really working towards reconciliation, it’s really heartwarming and I know it goes for my four year old son to have a good future here at U of L. “

With files by Karsen Marczuk

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