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Canadian university apologizes for reprimanding student who played a video about gender-neutral pronouns

(Wikimedia Commons/Radagast)The University Avenue facade of Maureen Forrester Recital Hall and John Aird Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

A university in Ontario, Canada has issued an apology after it reprimanded a student for playing a video clip of a debate about the use of gender-neutral pronouns in class.

Lindsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University, has been castigated by three faculty members in a private meeting for creating a "toxic climate" in class after she showed students a clip of controversial professor Jordan Peterson, who is known for opposing a new law enforcing the use of gender-neutral pronouns.

The faculty members had reportedly suggested that the student may have broken the controversial Bill C-16, which prohibited discrimination based on "gender ideology and expression."

On Tuesday, the university issued an apology to Shepherd, just days after she released an audio of the meeting that she had secretly taped.

"After listening to this recording, an apology is in order," said Wilfred Laurier University's President and Vice-Chancellor Deborah MacLatchy, according to Life Site News.

"The conversation I heard does not reflect the values and practices to which Laurier aspires. I am sorry it occurred in the way that it did and I regret the impact it had on Lindsay Shepherd," she added.

Shepherd's supervising professor Nathan Rambukkana, also apologized, saying the meeting that he had organized may have come off more intimidating than he would have liked.

"This entire occasion and hearing from so many with passionate views on this issue from across the political spectrum has made me seriously rethink some of the positions I took in the meeting," the professor said.

"I'm sorry this came to pass the way it did and look forward to moving past this and continue working with you as my TA and perhaps in the future," he added.

The video that Shepherd had played featured Peterson's interview with TVO's Agenda with Steve Paikin on the subject of Bill C-16.

Peterson had argued that the measure would lead to "compelled speech" and force people to use gender-neutral pronouns such as "zer" and "ze."

Following a complaint from a student, Shepherd was summoned to the meeting, in which Rambukkana suggested that she should not have remained neutral about Peterson's views.

The student said that she originally played the video in an attempt to demonstrate the complexities of grammar. She recounted that university staff had told her that it was a form of gendered violence to show the clip without warning about its offensive content.

During the meeting, Shepherd clarified that she presented the material "critically" and said that she disagrees with Peterson's views.

The university said that an independent party has been created to look into how the situation was handled, and to ensure that the school preserves its "enriched learning environment."

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