UBC has been served a lawsuit for its cancellation of far-right figure Andy Ngo’s event at UBC Robson Square, originally scheduled for January 29, 2020.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) and UBC Free Speech Club (FSC) announced that the JCCF has filed a petition for judicial review against UBC on July 10, 2020. The JCCF and its lawyers have filed the petition on the FSC’s behalf.
The FSC, which is not an AMS club, announced its intention to sue the university shortly after UBC had cancelled Ngo’s event.
Ngo, an editor-at-large at conservative media outlet The Post Millenial, has gained popularity for covering Antifa groups and their clashes with white nationalist groups. He and his outlet have been criticized for stretching facts, collaborating with far-right groups and provoking protesters to further the narrative that Antifa-related groups are violent.
Ngo was scheduled to speak an an event titled “Understanding Antifa (Anti-fascist) Violence.” The university cancelled the event because of unspecified safety and security concerns.
The press release from the JCCF claimed that the Free Speech Club confirmed the event with UBC, but in December 2019, UBC “pulled the plug on the event without notice.”
The JCCF alleged that UBC emailed the Free Speech Club the following day, writing that the event cancellation was due to reasons of safety and security.
“UBC did not outline any specific concerns about the event or provide The Free Speech Club with an opportunity to respond to or address any concerns,” the JCCF wrote in their press release.
The JCCF wrote a letter to President Santa Ono on behalf of the Free Speech Club in December 2019, threatening “legal recourse” if the event was not reinstated.
University Counsel Hubert Lai responded on January 8, 2020, stating that “UBC determined that the risk to persons and property was too high and accordingly cancelled the event.”
JCCF staff lawyer Marty Moore claimed in the press release that UBC cancelled the event in an “arbitrary and secretive fashion.”
“[This is] in violation of its own commitments to respect ‘the right to freedom of expression’ and to uphold students’ and visitors’ right to ‘engage in full and unrestricted consideration of any opinion,’” wrote Moore.
UBC declined to comment on the case, as it is before the courts.