'Free speech advocates' rally to support Lindsay Shepherd

Lindsay Shepherd's supporters and Wilfrid Laurier University students demonstrated in Waterloo, Ont. Friday for "freedom of speech" on campus.

Shepherd's supporters and Laurier students demonstrate for 'freedom of speech' on campus

Ryan Soulliere is a first-year chemistry student. Soulliere said he was "appalled" by what happened. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC News)

About a hundred activists organized a demonstration at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. Friday to show their support for teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd. 

Demonstrators stood on the campus lawn demanding that the university changed its free speech policy.
Among the list of people who spoke at the rally was Shepherd, who was sanctioned by the university for showing a video about whether people should use gender-neutral pronouns in class.

The university later apologized for how Shepherd was treated during a meeting with her professor about using the video. 

Allison Bruns, a former student at the University of Waterloo, showed up at the rally with her husband and daughter. "People shouldn't feel beat down so much they can't express themselves," Bruns said. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC News)

Supporters speak

Alex McEwin self identifies as a transgender man. He said he came out to support Shepherd because he didn't agree with how she was treated and the subsequent Rainbow Centre's statement portraying her position on the issue of gender, identity and language.

"As an individual, I personally disagree and I feel they don't speak for all queer and trans people in university settings," McEwin said.
Alex McEwin at the 'Free Speech' rally held at Wilfred Laurier University. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC News)

"Pride and being out of the closet, can only happen with free speech," he said. "The students should've talked to their TA first to address pronoun usage." ​


Across the street, a crowd of counter-protestors also rallied.
Toby Finlay, who prefers to be referred to as 'them' and 'they' in pronouns, said they were silently demonstrating to draw attention to the "trans-phobia that's at the centre of this issue."
Toby Finlay (right) is one of the counter-protestors who said the 'free speech' rally is trans-phobic. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC News)

"We aren't diametrically opposed to freedom of speech," Finlay said. 

"But most people would agree there are limitations on when that freedom of speech ends and when that becomes hate speech."