‘Angered and disappointed’: Students outraged after speaker accused of racism, transphobia hosted by Pro-Life USask
On Oct. 29, Pro-Life USask hosted an online discussion with a former student leader from Florida State University accused of racism and transphobia.
The speaker, Jack Denton, was removed from his position as president of FSU’s student senate last year after he criticized several political movements based in the United States — including Reclaim the Block and the American Civil Liberties Union — for promoting “grave evils.”
In a message to the FSU’s Catholic Student Union group chat, Denton claimed that the Black Lives Matter Global Network foundation is “anti-Catholic” because it “fosters ‘a queer-affirming network’ and defends transgenderism.”
Denton filed a formal lawsuit against the FSU student senate on the grounds that he was wrongfully ousted for what he believes was privately sharing his religious beliefs.
Caterina Eremondi, treasurer and a student leader of Pro-Life USask, told the Sheaf that the club hosted the discussion, titled “Standing up to Cancel Culture,” because the topic is relevant to members of their club.
“A lot of people who espouse their pro-life views in public tend to be cancelled as a result,” Eremondi said.
“We thought [Denton] could bring some insight into what you can do when you’re experiencing cancel culture and ways that you can hold your ground and stay convicted in your beliefs.”
The event prompted backlash from a number of students. Among them was Daryl Malana, a fourth-year marketing student and the youth & social media coordinator at OUTSaskatoon, who argued on social media that the event shows Pro-Life USask’s “ideologies include bigotry against the 2SLGBTQ+ community.”
“I’m so angered and disappointed that things like this are allowed on campus,” Malana told the Sheaf.
“Allowing people like [Denton] to disguise their hatred for minority groups, and just in general, through their Catholic beliefs is not fostering a safe space.”
But Eremondi says the club did not mean to cause harm by hosting the event.
“What’s important for us is to get people to think critically about abortion… We understand that, for a lot of people, [our beliefs] can seem threatening,” Eremondi said. “At the same time, we’re not trying to impose our beliefs, but trying to challenge the beliefs of others, and we do that through having conversations with people.”
Natalya Mason, education and outreach coordinator for Saskatoon Sexual Health, says that people are entitled to discuss abortion critically, but it’s important that these events are planned and promoted carefully.
“There’s a responsibility for ensuring that these campus groups have an understanding of what constitutes a safe space and where people’s freedom of expression isn’t impeding other people’s individual rights,” Mason said.
“There also needs to be attention paid to the way that these conversations are engaged in and the people who are having these conversations… I think there were a few red flags in terms of the presenter that [Pro-Life USask] had chosen to speak on that information.”
When asked whether the club endorsed Denton’s previous statements, Eremondi says they do not take an official stance on 2SLGBTQ+ issues and that members of the club did not interpret Denton’s comments as racist.
“We are definitely staunchly against racism. Still, we recognize that some people might have been upset at those comments, but the focus of our event was not on the other issues that he brought up.”
However, Madi Kuhn, coordinator of the USSU Women’s Centre, says that Pro-Life USask inherently endorsed Denton’s message by inviting him to speak at their event.
“Whether the pro-life group explicitly states they agree with Denton’s previous statements or not, their choice to platform him shows their support.”
Kuhn says that Pro-Life USask’s presence sparks conversations among students on campus. She has, of late, noticed an increase in students coming to the Women’s Centre for a safe space to air their frustrations and share their experiences.
“I’ve had many conversations with students about the harmful stigma and shame surrounding the topic of abortion, and the presence of the pro-life group on campus contributes to this.”
Anyone needing support or access to abortion care in Saskatchewan can contact the USSU Women’s Centre or Saskatoon Sexual Health for more information.
Jakob Philipchuk | Staff Writer
Photo: @prolifeusask via Instagram
Graphic: Jaymie Stachyruk | Graphics EditorThe post ‘Angered and disappointed’: Students outraged after speaker accused of racism, transphobia hosted by Pro-Life USask first appeared on The Sheaf - The University of Saskatchewan Newspaper Since 1912.