The University of Regina says it would be against its principles to cancel a lecture by a celebrated Canadian poet who has worked with a convicted killer of an Indigenous woman.
Richard Kleer, who is dean of the university’s faculty of arts, says George Elliott Clarke was invited to deliver the Woodrow Lloyd Lecture later this month.
Mr. Kleer says some have taken issue with the fact that Mr. Clarke has edited poetry by Stephen Brown, who changed his name from Steven Kummerfield.
Mr. Kummerfield was convicted of manslaughter in the 1995 death of Pamela George – a case that underscored the racism that Indigenous people face in Saskatchewan.
Mr. Kleer says the faculty was unaware of Mr. Clarke’s relationship with Mr. Brown when it first extended the invitation, but it stands by its decision.
He says Mr. Clarke, who has Indigenous ancestry, is a champion of social justice and that the faculty looks forward to hearing his message against racism and violence.
Mr. Kleer said neither Mr. Clarke nor the university condone Mr. Brown’s “heinous crime.”
“In fact, they both fully support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, including publicly acknowledging and condemning any violence directed towards Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Having Clarke speak at the University is witness to that commitment,” Mr. Kleer said in a statement Thursday.
“Furthermore, and as a matter of principle, denying someone a speaking platform, or censoring their message, simply because they have had a working relationship with a convicted criminal goes against everything a university should stand for.”
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