Talons Philosophy

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eric- what’s wrong with bill c-16

A psychology professor at the University of Toronto, Jordan Peterson, has recently been catching a lot of people’s attention. In his video lecture, Peterson describes his fears of  Bill C-16 and political correctness in society. He also makes it clear that he would not address others using gender-netural pronouns, as it infringes on his freedom of speech, even after the U of T administration sent him a letter to use and respect pronouns, or face legal trouble with the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Bill C-16 has recently passed the second reading in the House of Commons, and is very likely to pass into federal legislation. If so, the bill would prevent discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression as well as prevent hate propaganda or hate speech based on gender identity/gender expression.

Peterson describes the bill as “too loosely written” and “ideological motivated legislation”, making it very dangerous for a multitude of reasons (addressed in his lecture). One of his main points is the obstruction to freedom of speech, which I will analyze the logic behind his argument.

Premise: Bill C-16 prohibits hate speech/propaganda based on gender identity/expression.

Premise: Saying (or not saying) terms or ideas that target others based on gender identity/expression will be prohibited by law.

Conclusion: Bill C-16 prohibits one’s freedom of speech

To test the soundness of Peterson’s argument, each of his premises and conclusion will be broken down individually, and check how factually correct and valid his argument is.



Premise: Bill C-16 prohibits hate speech/propaganda based on gender identity/expression.

The proposed Bill C-16 will add “gender identity and gender expression” into hate speech laws. This is true.

Premise: Saying (or not saying) terms or ideas that target others based on gender identity/expression will be prohibited by law.

This is where things become difficult to assess. Of course this is not the first law which restricts freedom of speech. There are lots of things one cannot say (yelling ‘fire’ in a crowd). However, this is the first time where one is legally forced to speak (instead of refrain to speak) with specific vocabulary. Peterson sees this as a

U of T has already informed Peterson that he must use gender-neutral pronouns, or else it would be discrimination according to the Ontario Human Rights code. From that, one could infer that not using proper pronouns will also count for discrimination under the new legislation. This will make it mandatory for one to only say words(pronouns,gender terms)  which other people will decide are acceptable to use. An idea contrary to freedom of speech, where one is entitled to use language as they want. Is also not farfetched that any speech criticizing the social construction of gender identity, will be deemed as hate speech. Of course that is just hypothesis, but with the vague wording of the bill, it is not unreasonable to think any ideas opposing the current construct of gender will be discouraged or even banned. Because I cannot read the future, or know exactly how this legislation will be applied to society, it is impossible for me to deem this as true, but it is very probable.


So even though Peterson’s logic is valid, his argument cannot be completely factual correct, based on the fact that it is impossible top prove the second premise to be 100% correct, which jeopardizes the soundness of the argument. Although Peterson can not be fully sound in his argument, I believe he carries some very genuine, realistic arguments. What I find crazy is that the bill makes the presumption that there are more than two genders, even without conclusive evidence for or against it. I, like many people see gender as binary, and others see it as a spectrum. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that and everyone should be able to think what they want. However, when legislation is created which will prohibit the critique or opposition to an idea, and force everyone to use the vocabulary of one ideological group, I cannot see that as healthy. Peterson points out,we compose ideas through words, and in a strange way, Orwell’s 1984 shows how devastating it can be to society when restrictions are put on language.

This whole argument also ties into the idea of political correctness, which is another can of worms which I’ll probably open another time.




The Globe and Mail

The Varsity


The Hill (written by Peterson)



3 Responses to eric- what’s wrong with bill c-16

  1. Sam Jones says:

    Hi Eric!
    I really enjoyed this as I believe it is quite prevalent right now. This was really well written, and I like that you personalized your article to show your own perspective on what your take was on it. I have to say that as of this moment of time, I completely agree with you. Whether that’s based around my own ignorance or simply because you made a compelling argument, I’m not too sure. But until there is scientific proof, I agree we should not be creating and enforcing any laws pertaining to this.
    Over all this was really well articulated and insightful, well done! :)

  2. Akhila says:

    Hi Eric,
    This was a very well thought-out post that clearly had a lot of effort and research put into it- props to you. I respect your opinions as you made some compelling arguments, however I do have a couple of questions. First of all, do you think that if hate speech that is based on gender and identity prohibits freedom of speech, then the same thing applies to hate speech about race/culture? Bill C-16 works to legal protection towards trans and gender diverse people; Just like we can’t choose our ethnicity and skin colour, people cannot choose what gender they are born into. Whether you believe it or not, there are many people in the world who’s gender falls on a spectrum, and they are living their life as so. Using terms that are offensive to these people who fall on a scale can be just as hurtful as calling an African- American the “N” word. So condemning people for using this kind of hate speech to do with race is not limiting freedom of speech, but when it comes to hate speech about gender/identity, its limiting us? Just a thought.
    As we grow in society, people are finally doing something(creating bill C-16) to try and create an environment to provide equality and freedom for all Canadians, despite their gender. Keeping this in mind, do you think it is right to therefore limit ones freedom in the way of speech to further create freedom in how someone chooses to portray their gender?
    Just a few thoughts, looking forward to hearing your response. Once again, a very well written post :)

  3. popo says:

    Hey there, Eric! Your post was very well written and articulate, but I disagree with your (and Peterson’s) conclusion that Bill C-16 restricts freedom of speech in a significant way.

    For your analysis of the second premise, I’d like to add that the legislation would likely define intentional misgendering as hate speech based on gender identity rather than discrimination based on such. Peterson has no problem with the legal discrimination aspect of the bill.
    “This will make it mandatory for one to only say words(pronouns,gender terms) which other people will decide are acceptable to use.” Could you explain this further? The use of gender neutral pronouns such as they/them are already used regularly in our culture and language. Who are the people deciding what pronouns and such are acceptable to use?

    Overall, I don’t really see how how Bill C-16 would prohibit any possible critique of gender identity as a spectrum? Bill C-16’s primary purpose is to prohibit discrimination and hate speech against transgender people, which gender identity is being used as an euphemism for. Furthermore, I’m pretty sure you would agree that just because someone identifies outside the gender binary, which you may not see as valid, or that person does identify within the gender binary but not with the sex they were assigned at birth, that person does not deserve to be denied equal opportunity for employment or housing, or suffer from hate speech. Also, I don’t see how using gender neutral pronouns is necessarily the vocabulary of a specific ideology. Even within the left wing, there are varying viewpoints on gender and the validity of it as a construct.

    On Peterson specifically, I find him to be incredibly disrespectful. In my opinion, using the pronouns your students wish for you to use is not equivalent to the advocating of an ideology, it is simply basic respect for others. Intentional misgendering can feel extremely demeaning to many, and that is not the type of environment I believe should be fostered.

    On a tangent, what I find interesting is that Peterson is a psychologist. Psychology’s largest and most influential organization in the North America, the APA, recognizes gender identity and alternative gender identities and clearly outlines such in their guidelines for the care of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming patients. Example:
    Guideline 1. Psychologists understand that gender is a nonbinary construct that allows for a range of gender identities and that a person’s gender identity may not align
    with sex assigned at birth. (Source: http://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/transgender.pdf)

    Clinical psychologists routinely deal with transgender people, as Gender Dysphoria (formerly Gender Identity Disorder) is still under the jurisdiction and treatment of psychologists. That, and many transgender people struggle with depression, thoughts of suicide, and even suicide attempts; in my view because of the transphobia in our society that pervades the life of a transgender person. If one of Peterson’s patients was to identify as non-binary, I wonder if he would he stick to his guns and taint the therapist-patient relationship, as well as deviate from the guidelines of well respected psychological associations?

    Now, the subtle comparison of Bill C-16 to Orwell’s 1984 at the end of your post seems a bit hyperbolic to me. The idea of gender as a spectrum has only recently entered the awareness of mainstream western culture, and is still quite controversial. Most people still view gender as a binary, the gender binary is a cornerstone in our upbringings, I feel that the minority view of gender as a spectrum couldn’t possibly repress the much more popular, prevalent opinion.

    Thanks for reading this and I look forward to your response, Eric!! Sorry if my comment is quite a bit messy.

    Related but not necessarily the topic of the post, why do you view gender as a strict binary rather than a spectrum?


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