On March 6, keynote speaker Danielle Robitaille canceled her speech at Wilfrid Laurier University’s criminology conference.
Robitaille was one of the two defence lawyers in the Jian Ghomeshi sexual assault case, where he was found not guilty. Robitaille was invited to the annual Criminology Student Association (CSA) conference on March 8 to speak on working in her field. On March 7, the CSA announced that Robitaille will no longer be speaking at the conference. The CSA claimed that this was due to concerns for her and conference members safety, and whether members would feel comfortable speaking freely.
Advocates for a Student Culture of Consent (ASCC) created a Facebook page “We Believe Survivors: a Call to Action at Laurier Brantford”. On this group page an email template was made available to students who wished to voice their concerns to Laurier administration and other Laurier leaders about the harm that this event could create. It also stated that “This event is taking place just as many Women’s Day events are happening on both campuses, with the intention of deepening the discussion around Gendered Violence.”
“WLU is saying one thing on paper, but the institution is not standing behind these commitments in practice. By having Danielle Robitaille speak at “Brantford Research Week” (on International Women’s Day, no less!) WLU is sending a clear message to survivors, and we would like to challenge WLU to do better,” ASCC stated on the We Believe Survivors: A Call to Action at Laurier Brantford Facebook page.
In the statement made following the conference the CSA wrote on their Facebook page that it stands by their invitation regardless of recent events. The association has previously invited controversial speakers who have dealt with cases concerning human sex trafficking and proving wrongful conviction after sentencing.
“CSA feels that this outcome is in direct opposition to the university’s role in thinking critically and challenging students with ideas that they may not be entirely comfortable with. A post-secondary institution is founded upon the notion that education is at its most effective when it challenges deeply rooted ideals,” read the statement on the CSA’s Facebook page.
*Edits were made on March 10 to ensure information was factual.