Acadia University professor Rick Mehta is shown in a handout photo. A professor in rural Nova Scotia that stoked a national debate about free speech on campus after making controversial comments on social media and in the classroom has been fired. (Rick Mehta photo)

Controversial Nova Scotia professor fired after fire storm over comments

Rick Mehta has been dismissed following Acadia University’s formal investigation into complaints

A Nova Scotia professor who stoked a national debate about free speech on campus after making controversial comments on social media and in the classroom has been fired.

Acadia University confirmed Friday that Rick Mehta has been dismissed, several months after the Wolfville, N.S., school launched a formal investigation into complaints against the psychology professor.

University spokesman Scott Roberts said he is unable to comment or “provide any elaboration” on the dismissal as it is a confidential personnel matter.

He also was unable to provide details of the findings of the investigation overseen by Dalhousie University professor emeritus Wayne MacKay, noting that it’s a “privileged document.”

The Acadia University Faculty Association said in a statement Friday it was informed of the firing on Aug. 31, and has since filed for arbitration.

“The termination of a tenured professor is very serious, and (the faculty association) has filed for arbitration while its senior grievance officer and legal counsel examine the administration’s disciplinary procedures and evidence,” the statement said.

Mehta could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday. However, he retweeted a blog article that discussed his firing.

Last month, he said in an email that the only way he could have a copy of the investigation report by MacKay was by signing an agreement, which he called a “gag order.”

Mehta was outspoken both on campus and online about a range of contentious issues including decolonization, immigration and gender politics, garnering both supporters and opposition.

He came under fire for saying multiculturalism is a scam, denying the wage gap between men and women, and dismissing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a vehicle for “endless apologies and compensation.”

On Twitter, he retweeted a post that said it is “statistically impossible for all Native children to have had a negative experience with residential schools.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that more than 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children were taken from their families – often by force – to attend government schools. The commission heard testimony from roughly 7,000 survivors, including graphic details of rampant sexual and physical abuse at the schools, and found at least 6,000 Indigenous children died from malnutrition, disease and widespread abuse.

While his defenders called his voice an antidote to political correctness run amok, his critics said his polarizing comments attacked marginalized people and perpetuated harmful stereotypes.

In a Feb. 26 letter, Mehta’s designated department head, Rob Raeside, detailed some of the complaints against him, indicating that the level of anxiety in the class was high and some students had stopped attending.

Raeside said students have accused Mehta of spending excessive class time on non-class related matters, using non-academic sources for lecture content, testing on content not dealt with in class or in assigned readings and making provocative comments in class.

The acrimonious debate has spurred a Halifax-based activist to launch a petition demanding his removal from the small-town Nova Scotia university, while a counter-petition called for him to stay in the classroom as a beacon of freedom of expression.

In March, the Canadian Association of University Teachers appointed a committee to review how Acadia handled grievances against Mehta to determine whether his academic freedom had been breached or threatened.

“Professor Mehta’s case raises important questions about the scope of academic freedom in teaching and the exercise of extramural speech by professors,” David Robinson, executive director of the association, said in a statement at the time.

“These issues are of broad significance to all academics in Canada.”

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

City budget 2019: More firefighters approved by Kelowna city council

Council has approved a request to add eight more firefighters over the next two years

Holiday recycling rules in Kelowna

Do you know how to responsibly recycle this holiday season?

Rockets lose in Lethbridge

In the second game of the road trip the Rockets lost 5-1 to the Hurricanes

Your guide to winter light ups around the Okanagan

From Vernon to Summerland, with a stop in Kelowna, we’ve found some activities for you to enjoy

Your morning news in 90: Dec. 13, 2018

Tune in for 90 seconds to get the top headlines for the Okanagan, Shuswap and Similkameen.

RCMP responding to bomb threats at South Okanagan car dealerships

First responders at the scene of after bomb threats issued

Supreme Court upholds Canada’s right to reargue facts in assisted-dying case

Julia Lamb and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association are spearheading a challenge of the law

B.C. company facing several charges in 2017 chicken abuse case

CFIA investigation leads to 38 charges against Elite Farm Services and Ontario-based Sofina Foods

Okanagan Symphony presents Yuletide Tales

Christmas concert features three classic Christmas stories

Woman forcibly confined, sexually assaulted between Creston and Cranbrook

The suspect forced the woman into her vehicle before driving along Highway 3

Activists protest at Shuswap pig abattoir

Incident at meat processing plant under investigation by Salmon Arm RCMP

Giving the gift of nature

Please don’t be mad, but I bought you a moose

‘I thought I was dead as soon as I saw the gun’

Keremeos gas station attendant tells story about man with gun coming to store

Most Read