About 100 people gathered outside the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa Thursday afternoon to protest a talk by Jordan Peterson, a Toronto psychology professor who has refused to call transgender students by their preferred pronouns.

"Art has always been a safe space for queer people, people of colour and marginalized people in general. We don't feel safe coming to the National Gallery of Canada anymore," said Mars Ramlogan, one of the event's organizers and a second-year Carleton University student.  

Controversy has followed Peterson, who teaches at the University of Toronto, ever since he released videos arguing against political correctness on campus and said he should not be required to use gender-neutral pronouns.

Peterson said in previous interviews that being forced to use gender-neutral pronouns would infringe on the right to free speech, calling it "a dangerous precedent to demand people use certain words."

Jordan Peterson protesters

Mars Ramlogan, a second-year Carleton University student, said the fact Peterson was allowed to talk at the National Gallery of Canada means they no longer feel safe attending the gallery. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

The National Gallery of Canada said Peterson was invited to speak because of his clinical psychology expertise.

"The gallery invited him to speak about his specific research interest in the psychology of creativity, a subject he has spoken about at scientific conferences across North America and about which he has co-authored [more than 100] scientific papers," the gallery said in a statement a week ago.

In an email to CBC News, Peterson said his invitation from the gallery preceded his "recent political travails."

"The topic is apolitical, and the issues arising from my well-publicized stance against compelled speech are completely irrelevant to the talk," Peterson said.