UVic Free Speech Club to host Mayor Lisa Helps on campus

Campus Local News

Event promises to entertain “controversial” ideas

The David Strong Building at UVic. File Photo by Belle White

Victoria’s Mayor Lisa Helps will be speaking at an event on Jan. 31 on campus, hosted by UVic’s Free Speech Club. The event will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the David Strong Building, room C122. 

UVic’s Free Speech Club describes itself as a group that “supports and upholds free and respectful conversation about important political, moral, and philosophical issues.”

The event promises to offer a dialogue with Helps and approach all the big controversial issues in Victoria —  from bike lanes to climate change. Helps was not available for comment at the time of writing. 

Before the event, the Martlet spoke with the club’s President Levi Bekesza. Bekesza was part of the Conservative club on campus, but found they weren’t keen to approach anything controversial. The club started this year and has hosted monthly bar nights at Felicita’s or the Bard and Banker.

Although Bekesza claims they don’t allow speech that incites violence, it’s unclear if any topics are actually off limits for this club.  

When asked to define hate speech, he said “The jury is still out.” 

One comment on their Facebook page says, “Calling something ‘hate speech’ as a response to another person’s argument tends to be a lazy way of shutting down the opinions of others.”

“The only way to weed out bad ideas—  like clearly bad ideas like white supremacy and naizism — is by actually discussing why they are bad,” Bekesza said. “If we can open up a dialogue that’s free and respectful that would be helpful for people.”

When speech is restricted, Bekesza explained, it puts power in the government’s hands to censor. Bekesza says this type of censorship could lead to the government squashing dissenting opinions, like when religion was censored in communist countries. 

Helps has faced criticism for entertaining differing opinions in the past. Last year, she accepted an invitation to visit and tour Alberta’s oil sands. Helps was invited by a pro-fossil fuel lobby group, Canada Proud. Upon returning to Victoria, her resolve to act on climate change was undeterred. Helps said the visit broadened her perspective.

The UBC Free Speech club, which is unaffiliated with UVic’s, faced criticism for selling “Make Canada Great Again” hats on the day Donald Trump was elected. 

The UVic Free Speech Club has members from the left and the right of the political spectrum. Their last bar event centered around whether climate change was real or not, with half of the members on each side of the argument.