Two Laurier professors sue former TA who recorded disciplinary meeting

Two Ontario university professors who are being sued for defamation by controversial author and professor Jordan Peterson over comments made during a private meeting allege a former teaching assistant who recorded the conversation is responsible for its broader publication.

Nathan Rambukkana and Herbert Pimlott, who teach at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., maintain their comments about Peterson were not defamatory but argue in a third-party claim that they could not have known the statements would be recorded or disseminated outside the November 2017 meeting.

The pair allege Lindsay Shepherd, then a teaching assistant, had “power and control” over the recording and the distribution of the conversation, and meant for the contents of the meeting to potentially become widely available and discussed.

Therefore, they argue, should the court find Peterson suffered damages or injuries, those would be “attributable to Shepherd and her publication and dissemination” of the recording.

The allegations have not been proven in court and Shepherd’s lawyer says the young woman has not yet been served with the document.

Howard Levitt says that while he has not seen the claim, his client will defend herself against the allegations. He further says the professors’ argument makes no sense considering the conversation was also shared by media outlets and others.

“Why don’t you sue all the news agencies…that published it, if that’s really your position?” Levitt told The Canadian Press.

Neither Rambukkana nor Pimlott immediately responded to requests for comment, but they have previously denied the allegations in Peterson’s lawsuit.

At the heart of both suits is a 2017 meeting between the professors, a Laurier staff member and Shepherd, who was then a teaching assistant in Rambukkana’s communications class.

According to Peterson’s unproven statement of claim, the disciplinary meeting was called after Shepherd showed students an excerpt of a TVOntario broadcast in which Peterson defends his opposition to gender-neutral pronouns.

Peterson, a University of Toronto psychology professor who has gained international attention for his views on free speech and political correctness, alleges in his suit that the professors and staff member compared him to Adolf Hitler and accused him of being a “charlatan” over the course of the meeting.

Shepherd recorded the discussion and later provided the audio to media outlets who requested it. However, Peterson’s suit alleges that the audio was posted to YouTube, where Peterson — who is seeking $1.5 million in damages — alleges anyone searching his name online could be exposed to it.

“This has a significant impact on Peterson’s reputation among those with whom he deals, including fellow academics, future or existing students, the university where he works and those whom might read his books or listen to his lecture,” his statement of claim said.

Peterson further alleges Wilfrid Laurier University is liable for the conduct of its employees.

Shepherd, meanwhile, has filed her own lawsuit against Laurier claiming the university behaved negligently and left her unemployable in academia after the incident. She declined to comment on the latest suit because she has not seen the claim.

Wilfrid Laurier University said it would fight both Peterson’s and Shepherd’s lawsuits.

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