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Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is confronting a Canadian regulator in court over a demand that he undergo “remedial” social media training or face losing his psychologist license.
In November, the College of Psychologists of Ontario levied accusations that Peterson “may have lacked professionalism” in some of his social media posts. The government-backed regulator, which governs the psychology profession in the province, ordered Peterson to undergo “social media communications retraining,” that includes “coaching” for his Twitter commentary, or potentially have his license suspended.
The best-selling author and Daily Wire+ host blasted the effort to remove his license and accused the regulator of trying to suppress free speech.
Peterson also said he would not participate in the process.
BREAKING: the Ontario College of Psychologists @CPOntario has demanded that I submit myself to mandatory social-media communication retraining with their experts for, among other crimes, retweeting @PierrePoilievre and criticizing @JustinTrudeau and his political allies.
— Dr Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) January 3, 2023
On Wednesday, Peterson got his day in court.
Peterson has accused the regulator of going after him repeatedly since 2017, when his public profile began to grow. He now has a huge audience of 15 million followers across YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.
“I was never investigated for anything for the 20 years I practiced prior to my emergence on the public scene,” Peterson said.
Peterson’s legal team asked a three-judge panel in a packed Toronto court to overturn the regulator’s decision requiring him to undergo the remedial training.
“Tweeting on topics of socio-political interest is, in this day and age, a core aspect of free expression,” his legal team argued, according to court documents. “The decision must therefore be set aside.”
Peterson himself did not attend the day-long court hearing.
Some of Peterson’s offenses, according to the regulator, include retweeting Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre’s criticism of Trudeau, criticizing a former senior Trudeau aide, and expressing opposition to the idea of the Ottawa police taking custody of the children of Trucker Convoy protesters.
Other supposed offenses do not involve direct criticism of the Canadian government, such as Peterson saying on Joe Rogan’s podcast that accepting radical gender theory is a sign of “civilizations collapsing,” calling climate change models unreliable, and criticizing Sports Illustrated for putting a plus-sized swimsuit model on the cover.
Peterson also previously criticized a Canadian law that criminalized using the incorrect pronouns for trans-identifying people.
His legal team argued that the regulator took Peterson’s social media comments out of context.
“Some were sarcastic jokes; others were made in salty exchanges; and others needed to be read together with Dr. Peterson’s fuller explanations of them. Many of the comments were made on Twitter, which is an environment that does not allow for nuanced exposition.”
Attorneys for the College of Psychologists counter-argued that the regulator is not “meaningfully” limiting Peterson’s freedom of expression and said the remedial training is not punitive.
“Members are required to uphold the standards and ethics of the profession and they remain subject to the regulation of their professional body for as long as they remain members,” the psychology regulator’s legal team wrote.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation appeared in court on Wednesday to voice support for Peterson.
The Foundation said it argued that “professional regulators may not regulate off-duty conduct unless they can establish a clear nexus between that specific conduct and the legitimate interest of the profession.” Regulators also have a “heightened duty” to make sure they protect freedom of expression, the Foundation argued.
In January, Peterson wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sounding the alarm on the danger of the Canadian government going after political critics.
“I simply cannot resign myself to the fact that in my lifetime I am required to resort to a public letter to the leader of my country to point out that political criticism has now become such a crime in Canada that if professionals dare engage in such activity, government-appointed commissars will threaten their livelihood and present them with the spectacle of denouncement and political disgrace,” Peterson wrote.
“There is simply and utterly no excuse whatsoever for such a state of affairs in a free country,” he added.
The court has reserved its decision, according to multiple outlets.