UBC cancels panel featuring filmmaker who called residential school mass graves a "hoax"

Nov 12 2021, 10:18 pm

The University of British Columbia has cancelled a student-organized speaking event featuring a Canadian alt-right filmmaker who produced a documentary suggesting that outrage over mass graves discovered at former residential school sites was baseless.

UBC Students for Freedom of Expression booked Canadian author and filmmaker Lauren Southern to speak on November 17 alongside residential school survivor George Brown and former United Church minister Kevin Annett, who the church now labels a conspiracy theorist.

Southern’s documentary, The Canadian Mass Grave Hoax, questions the use of the term “mass grave,” takes issue with church burnings following the discovery of the graves, and insists there was no genocide against Indigenous people in Canada. The film is available on YouTube.

In a statement Friday, the university said it decided to cancel the event.

“Although the university does and will continue to support academic freedom, we have determined that this event should not proceed. We believe proceeding with this event would adversely affect campus and community safety,” it said.

UBC also clarified that the university did not organize or sponsor the event and said it does not endorse the “external group” that booked it.

UBC added it’s committed to supporting Indigenous communities in sharing the truth about human rights violations associated with residential schools. It encouraged people to turn to the Indian Residential School History Dialogue Centre or the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation for accurate information on the subject.

The event’s cancellation comes after pressure from students and UBC community members.

The UBC free speech club has long been known for hosting controversial speakers at events on campus and around Vancouver. It has previously invited right-wing speaker Ben Shapiro and anti-immigration author Mark Hecht.

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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