That’s the implication of an Ontario Superior Court ruling concerning a dispute between popular author and psychologist Jordan Peterson and the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO).
Last year, the college made a ruling that Peterson, who is a member of the college, had to complete “a specific continuing education or remedial program regarding professionalism in public statements,” as the Court summarizes it. Peterson chose to fight the ruling in an actual court, which has now—to the surprise of many—upheld the ruling.
This started when unidentified members of the public made complaints to the CPO concerning several posts Peterson made on X, formerly known as Twitter. The posts were mostly about transgender issues, but included one critical of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former right-hand man Gerald Butts and one where Peterson said a plus-sized swimsuit model was “not beautiful.”
The college ruled that “potential harms [from people seeing Peterson’s Tweets] include undermining public trust in the profession of psychology, and trust in the College’s ability to regulate the profession in the public interest. Public statements of this nature may also raise questions about Dr. Peterson’s ability to appropriately carry out his responsibilities as a registered psychologist.”
This is the college’s main argument—that they believe Peterson breached his professional obligations in his social media posts. How do these posts though have any bearing on his professional duties? Nothing was said to a clinical patient or about a clinical patient. It was all his personal commentary on these issues. The complaints didn’t come from any of his patients. They no doubt came from haters whose sole purpose is to trip him up.
Besides, it’s all a matter of perspective as to whether or not these statements do in fact undermine trust in the profession. The flipside could be argued: That Peterson’s work has enhanced the public’s interest, engagement, and trust in psychology.
Peterson is one of the most famous living psychologists in the world. When he goes on tour, he packs auditoriums like a rock star. His books stay on best-seller lists around the world for many weeks at a time. While he’s not lecturing strictly on psychology, his current popular content stems from the academic work he’s built over the course of his years as a psychology professor.
There aren’t many psychologists who get the rock-star treatment. The CPO should be thanking him for reinvigorating their field.
The CPO also added this bit of moralizing to the end of their ruling: “Public statements that are demeaning, degrading, and unprofessional may cause harm, both to the people they are directed at, and to the impacted and other communities more broadly.”
Peterson’s response to the ruling has been to keep on fighting: “So the [court] ruled that [CPO] can pursue their prosecution,” he posted. “If you think you have a right to free speech in Canada, you’re delusional. I will make every aspect of this public and we will see what happens when utter transparency is the rule. Bring it on.”
Peterson could just drop the case. By his own admission, he doesn’t really practice clinically anymore. But it’s about the principle of the matter—not just for Peterson individually, but for all regulated professions.
Here’s something to consider: Is it appropriate for an engineer or a dentist to make critical observations about transgender issues?
That’s an odd question, isn’t it? Because remarks made by someone online about trans issues really have no bearing on their ability to function as an engineer. This is really the essence of the Peterson issue.
This ruling is going to send a free speech chill to anyone in a regulated profession. They’re going to think twice now before they make any public comment that doesn’t fit the very narrow window of what’s currently considered an acceptable view.
This is a problem. A big problem. It’s why the Peterson ruling is wrong and why, by fighting it, the famed author is standing up for the basic free speech rights of all of us.
From The Epoch Times.
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