Hall Tells His Side of the Story in the Lethbridge Herald (June 4 – 8)

Tony Hall and Lethbridge University (5 parts & follow-up letters) Nick Kuhl (nkuhl@lethbridgeherald.com) Lethbridge Herald June 4-8, 2018


Contents

Part 1: Hall tells his side of story

Part 2: Hall explains history of suspension

Part 3: Role of Human Rights Commission in Tony Hall case

Part 4: Hall maintains key documents relevant to case withheld

Part 5: Controversy test case for universities: Hall

Letter from Kurt Schlachter, Chair of the Board of Governors, University of Lethbridge

Tony’s Response to the letter from Kurt Schlachter

Robin Mathew’s letter

Andrew Blair’s two letters

Andrew Blair’s Note on Confidentiality


Part 1: Hall tells his side of story

In 2016, he was suspended from his position of more than 25 years. A year later he was reinstated.

But there is still uncertainty whether he will ever step foot into a classroom again.

So -— University of Lethbridge professor Tony Hall wants his story to be heard.

Hall, a tenured professor who has taught Globalization studies, Native American studies, and liberal education at the U of L since 1990, was suspended without pay in October 2016 over concerns he had contravened Section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights Act, including providing a platform for hate speech regarding some of his online activities.

He maintains some of the issues involve academic freedom and he should be allowed to promote his work as he sees fit.

During the next five days, The Herald will be presenting an exclusive special five-part series in which Hall speaks candidly about his experiences of the past nearly two years.

Following is part one of The Herald’s sit-down with Hall.

Herald: “Prof. Hall, in your opinion how did the sequence of events begin two years ago that has engulfed your career of nearly 30 years as a faculty member at the U of L?”

Hall: “Thank you Nick for that question, one that gives me an opening to go to the very origins of the controversy. Before explaining how it all started, however, allow me to remind readers that I was suspended from my professional duties at the University of Lethbridge in early October of 2016. My pay was cut to zero, I was pulled from my teaching in mid-term and I was banned from setting foot on campus.

“All these punitive measures flew in the face of the foundational rules of collegial governance at universities around the world. My suspension without due process violated protections supposedly embodied in my tenured status. My tenured employment as a university professor is woven into the fabric of a collective agreement joining faculty and administration in a two-sided dance of ongoing negotiation. Of what use is tenure if a tenured professor can be pulled from her or his academic duties for giving offence to powerful groups. Isn’t that exactly what the protections of tenure are supposed to guard against?

“No process of outside adjudication preceded my instant suspension. No justification was given other than for U of L President, Michael J. Mahon, to indicate that I might have violated provincial human rights law. In his confidential letter to me of Oct. 3 of 2016, Dr. Mahon announced, “It has been brought to my attention through numerous sources that you are engaging in and have engaged in a series of actions which, on their face, would appear to contravene Section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights Act.”

“The suspension added a major new factor to the force of a pre-existing trial by media that began to gather momentum starting late in the summer of 2016. Beginning on Aug. 26 officials at B’nai Brith Canada maliciously associated me with the horrific contents of a vile Facebook item said to have briefly appeared on my former Facebook wall. This posting was executed without my agency, knowledge or consent. The tactic was a virtual equivalent in the era of the internet and social media to having illicit drugs or an explosive device planted on one’s person prior to a police sting operation.

“This Facebook post is said to have appeared and then disappeared on my Facebook wall during the duration of a few hours on Aug. 26. When I first learned of the existence of the Facebook deception in mid-September, I publicly condemned the post’s atrocious contents as running contrary to my fundamental values as a schooled opponent of genocide in all its manifestations.

“The Facebook deception was instrumental in creating the momentum of a campaign to discredit and cripple me professionally, a campaign that continues yet. The Facebook deception quickly plunged me under a cloud of infamy and public shaming. This description here in the Lethbridge Herald is the first time I have been provided with a venue in mainstream media to explain my perspective on what transpired.

“To this day the university administration has yet to address its relationship to the digital operation that created the manufactured crisis within which I was suspended without pay and due process. The object of the deception was clearly to smear my reputation by wrongfully identifying me with the repugnant content of a Photoshopped image together with a vicious text “proclaiming “KILL ALL JEWS NOW! … The Holocaust never happened but it should have.”

“Since the summer of 2017 I am in a position to document many surprising features of this case. I can do so based on letters obtained in response to Freedom of Information requests to the Alberta Ministry of Justice and to the U of L administration. Some of the retrieved letters expose heretofore hidden aspects of the Facebook deception that were deployed with all the destructiveness of a reputational wrecking ball.

“On Aug. 27, the day following the alleged appearance and disappearance of the Facebook post in question, reports identifying me with its reprehensible contents were circulated widely. In documents obtained from the FOIP Office of Alberta’s Justice Ministry I have proof of communication to top officials characterizing the reprehensible Facebook post as being indicative of my true opinions. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“Copies of a particularly accusatory letter calling for me to be fired went immediately to Dr. Mahon, to the RCMP, to Premier Rachel Notley, to Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley and to Alberta Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt. The communication sent to these figures slanderously identified me as “an advocate for the murder of Jews.”

“Simultaneously B’nai Brith Canada moved quickly to put the planted Facebook post before Lethbridge and Calgary Police Services with a call that these agencies open investigations. This request was quickly met in the affirmative. I was investigated to see if I would be charged with hate speech and incitement to commit genocide!

“I was indeed investigated by the police who decided not to charge me with a crime. Nevertheless, reports of the police investigation were made to proliferate. B’nai Brith Canada immediately publicized on its website reports of police involvement in my case. My response to this development is to emphasize that I should have been seen not as a possible protagonist in the commission of a crime. On the contrary I was quite clearly the target and victim of an audaciously deceptive Facebook operation.

“The political lobby’s smear operation quickly evolved into a campaign to have me removed from my professorial post. B’nai Brith Canada mounted a petition drive to have me investigated and fired. This objective was apparently embraced and advanced by the university administration as evidenced by its decision to suspend me from my professional duties on Oct. 3 and 4.

“My contention about the nature and purpose of the Facebook deception forms a core argument in the statement of self-defence I recently put before the panel currently investigating this case. At present I am trying to obtain a hearing to develop the oral aspect of my self-defence. For my part in the proceedings I am seeking to include the live testimony of witnesses who will appear before a three-person panel charged to investigate the underlying facts of this matter.

“Due to a court ruling on Sept. 15 of 2017, one that the U of L Board lost and my faculty association won, I am able at last to begin to relate my side of the story in a properly-constituted process. The outlines of this process are set out in provisions in the University of Lethbridge Faculty Handbook and in the terms of a tripartite agreement. This agreement takes the form of a contract signed with me by representatives of both the U of L Board and Faculty Association on Oct. 30 of 2017.

“I have developed the written basis of my self-defence in a 500-page account I have authored and recently submitted to the members of the investigating panel. These panel members are fellow faculty members, two from the U of Alberta and one from the U of Lethbridge. My submission also includes 100 pages of primary source documents, some of which were obtained on my behalf through Freedom of Information inquiries.

“In my estimation that main attribute of the documents obtained through FOIP show a pattern of thick collaboration beginning in the July of 2016 between the university administration and a powerful political lobby. A core unit in this lobby has been B’nai Brith Canada, the lead agency in the Facebook deception mounted against me in the prelude to what many have described as my illegal suspension.”

U of L officials were given the opportunity by The Herald to respond to all of Hall’s direct claims. They provided this statement:

“The University of Lethbridge will not provide any comment on the background or the process currently underway related to Dr. Hall. The process was agreed to by Dr. Hall, the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) and the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors. To comment at this time would be inappropriate and irresponsible.”

Part 2: Hall explains history of suspension

Herald: “Might you briefly summarize for our readers the range of subjects covered in the 500- page defence document?”

Hall: “The document addresses the substance of a complaint against me written on behalf of the Board of Governors. As negotiated in the tripartite agreement, the issuing of the complaint accompanied my reinstatement into my professional duties on campus on Nov. 23 of 2017. One of the tasks I set out to accomplish in authoring the 500-page document was to explain the history of this case prior to the interjection of the recently-selected panel members. Allow me please to explain for readers as I do in the report some key features of the history spanning the period between the Facebook deception and now.

“To explain his actions against me, President Mahon released on Oct. 13 of 2016 the first of what would become a series of published announcements to the ‘University Community.’ Dr. Mahon explained, ‘this action is not focused on Dr. Hall’s published scholarship, driven by complaints of students, or the demands of external advocacy groups. It is focused on his YouTube-based videos and comments in social media that have been characterized as being anti- Semitic, supportive of Holocaust denial and engagement in conspiracy theories.’

“I have come to view the phrases used at the end of this statement as weaponized terms most frequently deployed with the object of trying to terminate or maim the careers especially of public intellectuals. The aim in my case and many others I have examined, is to try to kill the message by delegitimizing the messenger. Open debate is thereby constrained and sometimes crushed. As with Dr. Mahon’s announcement, the weaponized phrases are rarely deployed with clear definitions. Nor are they projected into the public sphere with explicit evidence.

“This way of trying to shut down discussion and debate especially in universities is hugely consequential. Most often this strategy is directed at critics of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians, a category that includes me. Is this kind of public lashing an appropriate tactic to undermine professionally a faculty member with whom a university’s CEO disagrees?

“At the very least, surely there is a particular onus to be more circumspect and linguistically precise when a university president steps onto her or his bully pulpit to let loose weaponized language aimed at blasting an academic reputation to smithereens.

“Dr. Mahon’s reference to the role of YouTube in his effort to justify suspending me outside the terms of the collective agreement almost certainly points to my role in co-hosting with Dr. Kevin Barrett a regular internet broadcast entitled False Flag Weekly News. Between late 2015 and late 2017 I co-hosted a weekly conversation where Dr. Barrett and I regularly addressed about 40 media reports describing current events.

“A particular emphasis in our FFWN commentaries is to evaluate evidence concerning violent events often reported in mainstream media as the independent work of violent Islamic jihadists. Usually these reports indicate that Muslim terrorists act out of no other motivation than religious zealotry and hatred of western freedoms.

“Our sceptical approach to such reportage is framed within a larger interpretation of the role of deception in initiating and waging the Global War on Terror from 2001 until now.

“As many of your readers will be aware, there is a large and many-faceted citizens’ investigation fuelling a popular movement of millions of individuals who do not accept as valid the official narrative of what happened on 9/11.

“Dr. Barrett and I and many of those who regularly watch FFWN share this widespread scepticism. Based on long and focused research, publication and interaction with other investigators, Dr. Barrett and I share a general interpretation of false flag terrorism. While we often disagree on particular points, we agree with a general hypothesis.

“This interpretation posits that a deep state operation replaced the demonology directed at communism in the era of the Cold War with the demonology pointed at Islamic people and religion in the era of the Global War on Terror (GWOT). The purposeful and systematic demonization of Muslims is sometimes identified as the organized promotion of Islamophobia. Flawed interpretations of 9/11 and other subsequent episodes of possible false-flag terrorism can be interpreted as stimulants to Islamophobia.

“The process of helping along the creation of a new enemy has massively empowered those seeking to expand the militarization and police state attributes of the so-called ‘West.’ In the era of the GWOT, Muslim majority countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen have been invaded and largely pulverized with the object of bringing about ‘regime change.’

“This military adventurism has resulted in the murdering, maiming and violent displacement of many millions of indigenous peoples in Eurasia and the Middle East. Worse is yet to come if the extension of the GWOT results in the invasions of Iran and possibly Russia as well. Where is the peace movement when we need it the most? How can the peace movement be effective without evidence-based analysis of the true genesis of the 9/11 wars, of the ongoing GWOT?

“On FFWN we consider, for instance, the U.S. backing in Syria of the al-Qaeda proxy army and its outgrowth in al-Nusra. This backing has been provided with the object of overthrowing the elected Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad. This support for al-Qaeda in Syria replicates the CIA’s support for al-Qaeda in the 1980s when Western intelligence agencies recruited, backed and armed a Muslim proxy army with the object of overthrowing the Soviet-backed puppet regime in Afghanistan. How is it that the U.S. government has been backing the supposed culprits of 9/11 in al-Qaeda’s recent involvement in the clash of hostile armed forces in Syria? What is wrong with this picture?

“In the NATO countries, core polities of ‘the West,’ we face regular episodes of sometimes lethal local violence often attributed to the independent actions of Islamic jihadists in, for instance, Paris, Munich, San Bernardino, Orlando and even Ottawa in October of 2014. We talk about possible scenarios of what really happened on FFWN. Dr. Barrett and I also sometimes present our analysis in written essays, often with the object of trying to challenge the veracity of official narratives. One telling indicator of possible false-flag terrorism is the near instant release of official interpretations formulated well before proper police investigations could have taken place.

“The events of 9/11 offer a paradigmatic example of this phenomenon. The core elements of an interpretation about who did what to whom and why, were offered up almost immediately on the fateful day. The supposed culprits were identified and publicized long before the dust had even settled from the pulverization of three steel-frame skyscrapers in New York struck by two jet airplanes.

“The main outlines of this hastily-formulated official interpretation have been retained to this day despite the sceptical findings of many researchers who do not accept the official narrative as valid. One of these 9/11 sceptics is Prof. David Ray Griffin. Prof. Griffin has authored 11 carefully documented books describing various aspects of the 9/11 crime. Many agree with Prof. Griffin’s assessment that existing evidence does not support the official narrative of the 9/11 crime. This evidence remains incomplete due in part to the obstructions put in the way of proper investigations into what continues to be the most consequential global event of the 21st century.”

U of L officials were given the opportunity by The Herald to respond to all of Hall’s direct claims. They provided this statement:

“The University of Lethbridge will not provide any comment on the background or the process currently underway related to Dr. Hall. The process was agreed to by Dr. Hall, the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) and the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors. To comment at this time would be inappropriate and irresponsible.”

Part 3: Role of Human Rights Commission in Tony Hall case

Herald: Can you comment please on the role of the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in this case?

Hall: “Sure Nick. I have learned from documents obtained from the Alberta Ministry of Justice’s FOIP Office that in early September of 2016 the Ministry’s ‘Human Rights Commission Group’ was shipped materials pertaining to what I have termed the Facebook deception. This transfer of material happened before I was made aware of the smear campaign against me beginning with highlighting the offensive digital item as if it represented my views.

“On Sept. 1 the president of the Canadian Jewish Civil Rights Association, Bert Raphael Q.C., wrote to Dr. Mahon to assert that the offensive text ‘came from my lips.’ Mr. Raphael added, I would ‘respectfully suggest that such an odious pronouncement would warrant Professor Hall’s dismissal from your University.’

“On seeing these comments, why did not Dr. Mahon contact me immediately to seek my side of the story concerning the offensive digital item? To this day I have not discussed face-to-face this topic or any topic with the elusive Dr. Mahon. Why did Dr. Mahon fail to do due diligence by investigating personally the Facebook episode to assure the safety of faculty, students, administrators and support staff at our school? Did Dr. Mahon fail to contact me personally because he was involved in a plot to keep me in the dark about what was happening for as long as possible?

“The Oct. 3 letter introducing the suspension included an allegation that made oblique reference to the digital item at the heart of the furor. It indicated that my Facebook page was ‘being used for virulent anti-semitic comments.’ Who was using the page in this way? What was the intention of B’nai Brith Canada in wrongfully attributing to me ‘anti-semitic comments’ that I did not author, invite or sanction on my Facebook wall? What prior or subsequent knowledge, if any, did the university administration have of the Facebook deception? Why does the university administration so persistently avoid answering this question, one that I have asked repeatedly?

“Throughout the autumn of 2016 Dr. Mahon made frequent reference to a complaint being prepared by the U of L Board of Governors to be put before the AHRC. When this complaint was submitted in mid-December of 2016 it was accompanied by an announcement that my pay was being restored.

“As indicated on Jan. 17, 2017 in a widely published news story picked up from the Canadian Press, it was B’nai Brith official Amanda Hohmann, not a U of L official, who explained the restoration of pay. Ms. Hohmann explained in the press report, ‘Certainly, we would support anything that means that the complaint would be handled properly and is going to succeedÉ We would hate to see something like this thrown out on a technicality.’

“Why is a B’nai Brith Canada official explaining for the media an internal decision by the university administration about a change in policy concerning the pay of a suspended faculty member? As I see it, this statement on behalf of the University of Lethbridge by a B’nai Brith spokesperson adds to the evidence of an especially close collaboration between the school’s administrative branch and a core agency of a powerful political lobby.

“The preparation of the complaint to the AHRC was apparently developed through a series of secret investigations conducted outside the rules of the collective agreement. Dr. Owen Holmes has recently brought forward a surprising account of these investigations sometimes defined in media reports as ‘internal’ and sometimes identified as ‘external.’ Dr. Holmes, who is now in his 80s, was one of the main founders of the University of Lethbridge. On April 23 Dr. Holmes distributed yet another of his written missives in what he describes ‘as a series of communications intended to encourage all parties to seek early resolution of the issues [this case] has spawned, with copies widely distributed for transparency.’

“In the April 23 item Dr. Holmes wrote, ‘From published materials and miscellaneous incidental sources, I count that over the last couple of years Hall’s professional work has been assessed at least a dozen different times, half within the U of L and half by external bodies that gained intrusive foothold only through the failed trusteeship of a weak and incompetent Board.’ Dr. Holmes added, ‘not one of these operations had a trace of respectability in relation to the fundamentals of academic due process . . . Even Franz Kafka would be impressed.’

“To this day the university administration has not reported to the university community or to ULFA or to me that the board’s original complaint to the AHRC was rejected. The AHRC’s letter of rejection issued on Feb. 13, 2017 contained a number of written reasons I have cited in my 500-page report to the investigating panel. The AHRC’s rejection was authored by AHRC official John Gabriele.

“A second board complaint to the AHRC was subsequently accepted for consideration of the AHRC. I wrote a response to the second complaint but withheld it until Judge Glen H. Poelman’s court ruling of Sept. 15. Judge Poelman’s ruling upheld the Alberta government’s legal capacity to appoint an arbitrator to look into ULFA grievances generated by the original suspension and by subsequent board breaches of my right to privacy.

“After Judge Poelman denied the board’s request for a stay of proceedings and a judicial review of the whole matter, the university administration terminated its relationship with lawyer, Robert W. Thompson of Code Hunter Law Firm in Calgary. The board’s new Edmonton-based lawyer, together with ULFA’s lawyer, Leanne Chahley, then went to work on expediting subsequent procedures resulting in the tripartite agreement of Oct. 30, 2017.

“In this agreement the board agreed to withdraw its second complaint to the AHRC even as ULFA agreed to ask the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) to withdraw its very consequential threat to censure the University of Lethbridge. The sidelining of the AHRC in this matter opened the way to bring the controversy properly within the framework of the collective agreement where it now resides.

“In my view this shift away from the AHRC and towards the workings of the collective agreement at the University of Lethbridge has important positive implications for the shared professional interests of all university faculty members in Canada. While this recent development points in the right direction, however, many fundamental aspects of this case remain unresolved and in some instances in limbo.”

U of L officials were given the opportunity by The Herald to respond to all of Hall’s direct claims. They provided this statement:

“The University of Lethbridge will not provide any comment on the background or the process currently underway related to Dr. Hall. The process was agreed to by Dr. Hall, the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) and the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors. To comment at this time would be inappropriate and irresponsible.”

Part 4: Hall maintains key documents relevant to case withheld

Herald: “What do you mean “in limbo”? Can you give me a concrete example?”Hall: “Yes. One such matter concerns the holding back by the university administration of information that is very relevant to the investigation of this significant series of episodes in the institutional life of the University of Lethbridge.

“In response to our FOIP requests to the university administration we received only limited and often unsatisfactory releases of relevant documents. Many key documents were withheld that would undoubtedly shed more light on a variety of topics relevant to this case. In a dozen different instances university lawyer Scott Harling invoked the rationale of “solicitor-client privilege” to hold back relevant information. What are the implications of such wholesale resort to justifying secrecy in ways that cut against the need for accountability from a public institution funded in significant measure by taxpayers’ dollars.

“The FOIP investigations done on my behalf were carried out by Ken Rubin, an Ottawa-based expert on such matters. Mr. Rubin was contracted by the CAUT to provide this service. In his report to CAUT executive director, David Robinson, Mr. Rubin explained, “The most concerning point in the University of Lethbridge records provided is the lack of much information about [the administration’s] own investigation of HallÉ Incredibly, the records show President Mahon invited four external groups (B’nai Brith et. al.) to consult with Robert Thompson, the university’s [former] external lawyer investigating the Hall case, where they could have legal counsels present. Yet it appears Hall was never consulted or approached, at least there are no records to that effect.

“I can confirm I was not invited to the secret meetings organized by Dr. Mahon and Robert Thompson to discuss with representatives of the outside lobby the matter of my labour relations with the University of Lethbridge. Nor was ULFA informed of, or made party to, these secret meetings. In the primary sources appended to my report to the investigating panel, I have included the letters from Dr. Mahon to officials of the Calgary Jewish Federation (CJF) and the Centre for Israel and Affairs (CIJA).

“The letters of Oct. 20, 2016 were part of the material received from the FOIP Office of the University of Lethbridge. In the letters composed in the immediate aftermath of my suspension, Dr. Mahon proposes to Mathew Godwin of the CIJA and to Jeffrey L. Smith Q.C. of the CJF, ‘if you would like to have legal counsel present, Mr. Thompson would be happy to accommodate this.’

“The text of the letters appeared under the heading, ‘Re: Anthony Hall.’ It is troubling and difficult for me to consider the assumptions underlying the legal construction of this procedure. It makes of me an object, a subject matter – Re: Anthony Hall – rather than a participant in negotiations to determine my own future.

“The understanding seems to be that by suspending me, the U of L board and president excluded me from any requirement even to copy me in correspondence concerning my future. Certainly there was a determination that I was to be excluded from deliberations quite probably directed at terminating my still-unextinguished status as a tenured professor at the University of Lethbridge. Did those who implemented my suspension assume that their actions negated my status even as a citizen as well as a faculty member?

“Silent volumes are spoken by the fact of ULFA’s pre-emption in the process by an external lobby group notwithstanding that the main subject on the table was labour relations with a controversial faculty member. The episode seemingly offers a textbook example of the subordination of a university board to the political machinations of a powerful external lobby. How can vital imperatives of academic freedom be maintained in an educational milieu where powerful external lobbies can sometimes alternate between carrot-and-stick tactics to gain enormous influence over university administrators?

“I suspect that the secret negotiations between the board’s former lawyer and some legal representatives of the Israel lobby in Canada came up with interpretations and perspectives that found their way into the first and second complaints to the AHRC. Some of the substance of these earlier complaints re-appeared in the complaint of Nov. 23 authored by former Acting Dean of Arts and Science, Dr. Michelle Helstein.

“I have my doubts and concerns about the possible ongoing role of the external lobby in this case. Recall that the external lobby introduced its hostility to aspects of my academic work as a tenured professor with a blitzkrieg-style deployment of social media in the Facebook deception initiated on Aug. 26 of 2016. Is there an ongoing involvement of the external lobby still operative in the background of the current proceedings? Is the investigating panel replicating old patterns of stealthy procedure epitomized by the secret lawyers meetings instituted with the label, “Re: Anthony Hall?

“I am attempting to show good faith in the current proceedings. I am doing so by proposing to bring forward witnesses. The witnesses would include one or more of my former students to comment on my teaching if that is to be a topic of investigation.

“In addition I have put forward the name as a witness of Dr. Graeme MacQueen. With a PhD from Harvard, Dr. MacQueen is the founder and first executive director of the Peace Studies program at McMaster University in Ontario.

“In anticipating on March 1 of this year Dr. MacQueen’s possible role as a witness, I wrote, ‘Dr. MacQueen’s scholarly activism as a proponent of peace and as an opponent of militarism in all its many manifestations forms the main connection that originally brought him to 9/11 Studies. His thesis is that, in order to offer a viable resistance to the 9/11 wars, some solid evidence-based analysis of who did what to whom in the originating episode of the Global War on Terror is a necessary condition for the growth and effectiveness of a viable peace movement.’

U of L officials were given the opportunity by The Herald to respond to all of Hall’s direct claims. They provided this statement:

“The University of Lethbridge will not provide any comment on the background or the process currently underway related to Dr. Hall. The process was agreed to by Dr. Hall, the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) and the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors. To comment at this time would be inappropriate and irresponsible.”

Part 5: Controversy test case for universities: Hall

Tony Hall, a tenured University of Lethbridge professor who has taught Globalization studies, Native American studies and liberal education at the U of L since 1990, was suspended without pay in October 2016 over concerns he had contravened Section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights Act, including providing a platform for hate speech regarding some of his online activities.

Following is the conclusion of The Herald’s recent sit-down with Hall.

Herald: “In summation, Prof. Hall, what do you see as the big issues raised by the contentions between you and the administration of the University of Lethbridge?”

Hall: “I believe this controversy is becoming something of a test case whose outcome will influence how universities will be governed in the future. This case is already setting precedents for institutions of higher learning in Alberta and beyond. These schools of advanced education play vital roles at the very interface between continuity and change in the evolution of our most important civilizational complexes.

“The contentions set in motion by my suspension raise many fundamental questions. For instance, how is it to be decided what can or cannot be the subject of research, publication and pedagogy at universities? How is expertise in various fields of study to be acquired, passed along, certified and applied these days? Who is to decide what academic faculty get hired, retained or dismissed?

“Should limits be set on what can be investigated, discussed, debated, written about and taught in the curriculum? If so, how are these boundaries to be set? By whom and how should these outlines of academic legitimacy be established? Are there checks currently in place to safeguard the integrity of procedures currently used to decide such matters? Are the supposed safeguards adequate to meet the growing incursions of powerful political lobbies?

“All of these questions bear directly on the fundamental issue pertaining to the role of university faculty members and administrators in drawing distinctions between truth and falsehood, between legitimate inquiry and quackery. In this sense universities constitute a kind of high court for such determinations essential to the very viability of free and democratic societies founded on platforms of enlightenment and rationality.

“The pursuit of truth through the application of evidence combined with disciplined reasoning is not the same thing as a popularity contest. Accordingly, it has long since been recognized that there has to be some special protections for qualified university faculty members who may from time to time develop interpretations that are seen as menacing to those in positions of power. These considerations have much to do with the frequency that specialized terms like tenure, academic freedom and peer review come up in my case.

“This contention at the University of Lethbridge is coming to embody the basic dilemmas that often arise when powerful interests line up with the object of trying to silence the message by professionally destroying the messenger. Essential to my self-defence is my conclusion drawn from primary documents that the board of governors of our university has aligned itself too closely with a powerful political lobby that began a systematic attack on my reputation prior to my suspension in October of 2016.

“Then on November 24, 2017, the day after I was reinstated to my professional position, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley joined with the powerful interests calling for my removal from the academy. In public pronouncements Premier Notley condemned both my academic work and my reputation. Premier Notley declared that I “absolutely” should not be “teaching students;” that she sees my views as “repulsive, offensive and not reflective of Alberta.” Our premier said nothing about how she arrived at her conclusions. Could it be that her opinion of me continues to be influenced by the misrepresentation of the Facebook deception funnelled into her office on August 27 of 2016?”

The Herald has not received a response from Premier Rachel Notley’s office regarding comments towards her.

U of L officials were given the opportunity by The Herald to respond to all of Hall’s direct claims. They provided this statement:

“The University of Lethbridge will not provide any comment on the background or the process currently underway related to Dr. Hall. The process was agreed to by Dr. Hall, the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) and the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors. To comment at this time would be inappropriate and irresponsible.”

Herald: “Tony, after going over all of this, do you have any final comment, or overarching statement?”

Hall: “I moved to Lethbridge in 1990, January 1st of 1990, to take up my position as associate professor of Native American studies. I moved here, I have joined in the community, I’ve contributed to the life of the community, including The Lethbridge Herald, and the discourse of The Lethbridge Herald, whether it be the Yuan Yi hog plant, or Milton Born With A Tooth and the Oldman Dam, or the free trade area of the Americas, and the controversy that unfolded in 2001, fluoridation, smart meters – I haven’t been shy to try to contribute to the discourse. And sometimes I’ve been unpopular as a result. And sometimes I’ve been popular as a result.

“But, anyway, that’s the nature of discourse in the public sphere. I’ve taken pride in the fact that I can communicate through popular press, in very accessible media, and explain, what might seem to some, complex matters in language that is accessible to people. My really deep commitment to justice for First Nations in Canada, and looking at Indigenous peoples increasingly in a North American context, a Western Hemisphere context, and in a global context, I think it’s not surprising that my attention was drawn to the plight of Palestinians, to the situation in the Middle East, that I read the situation, which involves a very gross disparity of power between a sovereign country, Israel, and a people who have no state, the Palestinians, that there needs to be some equity. And there needs to be some voices raised to people who are suffering in the terms of how power is exercised these days.

“Muslim people after 9/11 have been put in a particularly precarious position and I mean the worldwide community of two billion Muslims, the Islamic religion, Islamic people, Islamic culture, Islamic philosophy. So I’ve lent my voice to drawing attention to that and I see 9/11 and the interpretation of 9/11, and the Global War On Terror, and the way terrorism is depicted; some instances that I think aren’t depicted as they really should be.

“I seek to use my experience as a researcher, my capacity to articulate things in the public milieu; I’ve written for the Globe and Mail, I’ve written for the Toronto Star, I’ve written for the Ottawa Citizen. To me, it is a tactic that I’ve used throughout my academic career to comment on contemporary issues and bring historical interpretations to that cause or to that procedure, to that process. So, to me, False Flag Weekly News fit into that pattern and was a kind of natural for me.

“I would like to see some calm and collegial resolution to this matter. I don’t think that the differences are as radical as some would like them to be. And, of course, I made a commitment to this community. I’m still here and I would like to be able to live in this community and continue to contribute in this community and be understood as having a good intention. People may disagree with my interpretations; I might even irritate some people the way I express myself. But this is how it works in the sphere of ideas and conflicting interpretations. This is what we have universities for.

“Knowing how to agree to disagree is crucial. I think we should embrace that ideal of finding ways to agree to disagree that is essential in the process of advancing liberal education – which the University of Lethbridge apparently stands for.”

Letter from Kurt Schlachter, Chair, University of Lethbridge Board of Governors Lethbridge Herald, Readers Forum, June 6, 2018, p. A8

Series a one-sided account of complex issue

The University of Lethbridge values the Lethbridge Herald’s important role in covering the significant news and events that happen in our community. Therefore, we were not surprised that our local newspaper has chosen to dedicate some of its resources to covering the story related to Dr. Anthony Hall.

What is disappointing, however, is that the Lethbridge Herald did not apply any journalistic standards in publishing the articles that appeared on June 4 and 5, which are apparently intended to be the first two instalments of a five-part series. These articles are nothing more than an open- ended question followed by an unchallenged response. It was irresponsible of the journalist who authored them to have enabled a on-sided and unfettered account of this complex matter as he did, in which he asks no follow-up questions, seeks no burden of proof, and cites no additional research. Encouraging such statements to be made without so much as a follow-up questions does not meet the basic standards of respectable journalism, and encourages conflict and controversy rather than responsible and respectable discourse.

This concern is compounded by the fact that the very nature of the dispute between the University of Lethbridge and Dr. Hall is inherently confidential, and as such our ability to respond is extremely limited. The process that is currently underway is articulated in the Faculty Handbook, and was initiated as a result of an agreement between the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors, the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association, and Dr. Hall himself. The Faculty Handbook clearly articulates a respect for privacy and confidentiality in all its processes. As such, the university will not waiver from abiding by the terms (including confidentiality) outlined in the handbook and in the tri-partite agreement governing the present process.

While we fully support an independent media inquiring about and publicizing issues of civic importance, we question the blatant lack of critical analysis in this series of pieces. By simply posing open-ended questions and publishing the unchallenged responses, our community is left with nothing more than an opinion. Without research, fact-checking, and challenging follow-up questions, there can be no journalistic integrity, which significantly reduces the value of your reporting.

Kurt Schlachter Chair, University of Lethbridge Board of Governors.

Tony’s response to the letter from Kurt Schlachter (as yet unpublished) 11 June, 2018

To the Editor of the Lethbridge Herald;

In his June 6 response in the Lethbridge Herald, University of Lethbridge Board of Governors Chair, Kurt E. Schlachter, voiced criticism of the newspaper and its City Editor, Nick Kuhl, for publishing the recent five-part series titled, “Hall tells his side of the story.”

Mr. Schlachter asserted that the LH “did not apply any journalistic standards in publishing the articles.” He also indicated that these articles went to print “without research” and without “fact checking” to address “the burden of proof.”

On the contrary, Mr. Kuhl did much behind-the-scenes preparation for the series. Before our exchanges “on the record,” Mr. Kuhl devoted much of his time in our preliminary discussions to careful readings of the precise texts of many official documents. As we moved through these primary sources, the City Editor sought answers from me to many questions arising from his study of the documentary evidence.

The five-part series introduced much new information into the public domain. Many of the fresh disclosures establish points of reference vital to establishing the factual foundations necessary for a proper and balanced discussion of this ongoing case.

By publishing this previously concealed information, Mr. Kuhl and the Lethbridge Herald fulfilled the highest standards of professional journalism. Mr. Kuhl’s decision to illuminate rather than obfuscate some of the core dynamics of this controversy promises to enable more informed public discourse on the future of higher education in Alberta and beyond.

Many documents that Mr. Kuhl examined came in response to Freedom of Information and Privacy (FOIP) requests directed to the appropriate authorities. The communications brought forward were authored by official sources in the provincial government, university administration and in agencies of the political lobby that has played such an intrusive role in this matter.

Mr. Schlachter advances the case that the dispute at issue here is “inherently confidential.” This comment fails to acknowledge that the University Administration was instrumental in helping to orchestrate a very public media smear campaign directed against my person and reputation. This trial by media was conducted inside and outside the University in ways that were anything but confidential.

This matter only entered its current phase following a court ruling by Judge Glen H. Poelman on 15 Sept. of 2017. In his ruling Judge Poelman conveyed to the Board of Governors that it would need to take part in a properly-constituted investigation within the terms of the U of L’s collective agreement. The Judge made it clear that Board of Governors could not indefinitely favour the external lobby by sidelining ULFA from its rightful role as a primary party in this labour relations dispute. It remains to be seen if the “procedural fairness” provisions referred to in the collective agreement and in the tripartite contract of Oct. 30 2017 will be adhered to in the present stage of this ongoing process.

To summarize, more than a year and a half had elapsed before I was given an opportunity to publish in a mainstream media venue an account highlighting my understanding of this matter. This departure from past practice occurred because Mr. Kuhl took an initiative on behalf of his newspaper to introduce more balance and equity into the slanted media coverage that commenced in June of 2016.

Only now is this matter coming within the procedures outlined in the U of L’s collective agreement. Only now am I able to contribute to public awareness by relating on the record my side of the story. This timing should indicate for the attentive that all previous judgments were premature. Nevertheless, I have no choice but to bear the heavy professional damage already wrought by the onslaught of negative publicity attending the Facebook deception followed by my illegal suspension. Put plainly, because of the University Administration’s aggressions to date, I can never return to the same conditions of employment that prevailed before the intertwined chain of events unfolded between late August and early and early October of 2016. The essence of this initial salvo on my reputation resulted in my being pronounced guilty until proven innocent. Has anything changed in the current process to reverse this perversion of natural justice?

Mr. Schlachter argues that the series “does not meet the basic standards of respectable journalism and encourages conflict and controversy rather than responsible and respectable discourse.” Where was the opening for “responsible discourse” when U of L President Mike Mahon failed to seek out my side of the story amidst all the negative publicity attending the Facebook deception, the manufactured crisis that created the public environment for my subsequent suspension?

Even now, where are the venues for this “responsible and respectable discourse” on the academic freedom case currently unfolding at the University of Lethbridge? Does Mr. Schlachter’s response to the five-part series embody precisely the kind of “encouragement” to “conflict and controversy” that he wrongfully attributes to the officers of the Lethbridge Herald?

Anthony James Hall Professor of Globalization Studies University of Lethbridge

Robin Mathews letter sent to the Lethbridge Herald, June 12, 2018, not published

The five part series you have published giving Professor Anthony Hall space to answer the nearly two years of unbalanced verbal attacks and the actions improperly taken against him goes some way  – in the Public Sphere – to accord him a measure of decency.

Your care to interview him at length and to examine documents involved in his dispute with the president of the University of Lethbridge, the Board of Governors, and Israel government-connected organizations before you launched the series attests to your determination to act with responsibility and foresight.

Your readers will surely remember that – when he was out of the country in August, 2016 – someone, or some people, posted a vicious anti-Semitic cartoon on Anthony Hall’s Facebook Page – unknown to Professor Hall.  B’nai Brith (which is reported to have contacted Lethbridge police the day before the posting) gathered with many other Israel government-connected groups and persons to contact and complain to the University and the Alberta government – one person even writing that the vicious cartoon came from “the lips” of Anthony Hall.  Most of them cried out for his immediate dismissal.  The sham protest was apparently seized upon with vigour and enthusiasm by Mike Mahon, the president of the University of Lethbridge.

In brief, I would say Mike Mahon has acted inappropriately from the beginning of the constructed fiasco … until today….

His violations of civilized and scholarly procedures in the matter of disagreements (that are of public concern) between persons and institutions, have, I allege, been continuous and unbroken. Moreover, my opinion (built on a career in academic life which included public advocacy as well as conflict with so-called university “authorities”) is that ‘due process’, fair procedure, and a just examination of the dispute has been violated from the beginning – and is being violated in the presentby the Committee of Inquiry set up after a Court ruling requiring fair procedures.

In the Fall of 2016 president Mahon accepted a flood of allegations against Professor Hall … and did not once meet – and has not ever met with Professor Hall (a senior academic colleague) to discuss the substance of the allegations. Without recourse to normal procedures or to the Faculty Association, president Mahon (illegitimately) suspended Professor Hall, forbade him to stand on University property, and terminated his salary … pending an investigation of allegations against him. (Guilty until proved anything-at-all.)

Since that time, president Mahon’s behaviour, I believe, has been consistent.  Avoiding all fair university procedures, Mahon’s administration, for instance, filed a Complaint against Professor Hall with the Alberta Human Rights office – making the action highly public.  When the Complaint was dismissed, the University administration failed to inform … anyone. As to the present Committee of Investigation (it may have another name) agreed upon by all parties, I do not believe its work is credible.  I believe it has violated the terms of its existence and that its actions must be ruled null and void.

To cite only one action of the Committee: through the agency of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association, Professor Hall requested to be present when the Committee was hearing allegations of wrong-doing against him by some persons.  The Committee refused the request, preventing Professor Hall from hearing in person and knowing the substance (and tone) of the allegations. I will not cite here any further breaches of due process that I believe the Committee of Investigation has committed.  (That one example is enough to invalidate the work of the Committee, for it suggests, among other things, a prejudicial attitude towards Professor Hall.)

But I will refer to a statement by the premier of the Province of Alberta, which I believe the Committee of Investigation should have rejected publicly without delay (to assure its posture of objectivity).  The Committee did not reject the statement at all.

Your readers will remember that an utterance by the premier of a province that is uncontested is, in fact, an utterance from the Cabinet – in fact from “the government of the province”.

The Committee of Investigation was formed by agreement of the University administration, the Faculty Association, and Professor Hall.  It was the result of a court hearing in Lethbridge at which a judge ruled that proper procedures had to be followed in the conduct of the dispute and its examination.  Almost immediately after that ruling, the premier of the province interceded (with a powerful member of one of the Israel government-connected organizations by her side).

When a proper procedure had been ordered by a judge (after hearing all sides), premier Rachel Notley spoke publicly on the matter – as government.  She declared that Anthony Hall’s views are “repulsive, offensive”. She went on (in her directed condemnation of Professor Hall) to say that in “our classrooms … freedom of speech …does not mean individuals get to stand at the head of the class and spread lies and conspiracy theories”.  She ended her alarming and irresponsible diatribe by saying: “We absolutely do not believe he [Hall] should be teaching students.”

“We”, of course, is The Government of Alberta.

After her statement, it should have been clearly and strongly rejected by the Committee of Investigation on the grounds that it could be interpreted as “direction from Cabinet” to the Committee of Investigation.  The Committee had no choice in the matter; it had to respond if it wished to retain legitimacy.  It, we know, did nothing. And it then denied Anthony Hall the right to hear his accusers….

When the full force of the Government of Alberta publicly enters such a dispute (with – not incidentally – a member of a powerful Israel government-connected organization at her side), the Government must be believed to be asserting its power in order to influence the outcome of the Committee’s “investigation”.

I believe that the Committee’s failure to respond loudly and publicly to the premier’s statement places its activities and its intentions into serious question.

To add just one more improper and unacceptable action by University officers, Kurt Schlachter, Chair of the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors, intervened, in a letter to the Lethbridge Herald – in relation to the five part series written by Professor Hall.    In complete lock-step with previous improper behaviour by the president, administration, and Board of Governors, Chairman Schlachter declared the free and responsible actions of the Lethbridge Herald in the matter … unacceptable.

Chairman Schlachter utters what I believe is another falsehood.  He writes that the dispute is “inherently confidential”, a claim that was exploded from the first, when president Mahon took improper actions against Professor Hall and more than once announced publicly – “urbi et orbe” – (to the city and the world) the improper actions he was taking. Confidential? (Besides, an attack on a university professor that endangers freedom of expression and inquiry cannot remain “confidential”, for it is an attack, in fact, on the whole structure of a democratic society.)

The “dispute” is between Professor Hall and all those attacking him: president Mahon and his team, the U. of Lethbridge Board of Governors in league with some Israel government-connected organizations.  To say that the dispute is between Professor Hall and the University of Lethbridge is simply false. Moreover, the “University” is made up of thousands: students and faculty members and support staff.  They provide the major component of “the University”.  The  “University” is not the president and the Board of Governors in league with outside organizations wishing to dictate the terms of Free Expression in the university and in Canada.  Those claimed by Chairman Schlachter to be “the University” are, in this case, I believe, a poisonous and unfortunate imposition upon “the University”.

The dispute at the University of Lethbridge has been, regrettably, wholly contaminated with ill-will, secrecy, wild accusations, and improper meetings by the president and his “team”… and with an added dangerous contamination by outside interests wishing to repress freedom of debate and expression.  The colour of the dispute is emphasized especially by the failure of openness and good will on the part of officers filling positions of major responsibility in the institution.

The wholly irresponsible – almost unbelievable – statements by premier Rachel Notley reveal what I think may be called the deep corruption of almost all those engaged in the project to destroy Anthony Hall by whatever mean, improper, and slanderous methods can be imagined and engendered.  If, as I believe, the Committee of Investigation is contaminated … then it must be dissolved and Professor Hall returned to the position he held before “conspirators” posted a vile anti-Semitic cartoon on his Facebook Page as a way to begin trashing his peace of mind, his reputation, his good name, his place in the community, his livelihood, and, incidentally, Freedom of Expression and Research at The University of Lethbridge.

Robin Mathews, Professor of Literature and of Canadian Studies (retired)

Andrew Blair’s letters to the Lethbridge Herald, June 4, June 6, 2018, not published

Sent June 4, 2018

I am very pleased to see that the Herald is giving Professor Hall a chance to tell his side of the story.

Many people have come to believe that Professor Hall is anti-Semitic, a term which means prejudice against Jewish people. Since October 2016 I have had many conversations with Professor Hall, and have not found him to be anti-Semitic at all. However, there is a sense in which he is pro-Semitic. He stands for the human rights of all people, including Arabs, who are a Semitic people. Whatever you think about the way Israel defends itself, the human rights of the Palestinians are as important as those of the Israelis. And let us not forget how much the people of many Middle Eastern countries have suffered during the wars pursued by the U.S. (and to a lesser extent Canada) in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Sincerely,

Andrew Blair

Sent June 6, 2018

In his letter to the Herald, the Chair of the Board of Governors of U. of L., Kurt Schlachter, accuses the Lethbridge Herald of journalistic irresponsibility by giving Professor Hall an opportunity to tell his side of the story of his suspension. At the same time university officials refuse to provide any comment. That’s not very helpful to a journalist looking for questions or challenges to Dr. Hall’s version of the story.

The reason given by Mr. Schlachter for not providing comment is respect for privacy and confidentiality, as articulated in the Faculty Handbook. He says this covers “all” processes. But this cannot be right.

There are many principles enunciated in the Handbook, and sometimes there are conflicts among them. The Handbook explicitly recognizes the possibility of such conflicts in Section 9.05.3, where, in the context of letters of reference, it gives fairness precedence over the need for confidentiality. Giving fairness precedence needs to be applied in other contexts too. The university administration cannot in fairness let it be known that it was submitting a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission regarding Dr. Hall, and then not let it be known that the complaint was rejected.

The need for confidentiality can also come into conflict with another principle set out in the Handbook: academic freedom. Without academic freedom university professors cannot engage in the full exchange of ideas necessary for the production of genuine knowledge. It is the responsibility of the board to uphold this principle, and it needs to be seen to be doing so. It cannot use the legitimate need for confidentiality in certain processes to override the need for transparency in others.

The public needs to know that the University of Lethbridge is not using character assassination to enforce politically acceptable dogma in the contentious areas dealt with by Professor Hall. Otherwise we have reason to fear that in our name terrible things are being done to those who have little power to fight back.

Sincerely,

Andrew Blair

Note Regarding Confidentiality

The limit for letters to the Lethbridge Herald is 350 words. This may explain why the letters from Robin Mathews and Professor Hall have not been published. My own letters are under the 350 word limit, and perhaps they will be published at a future date.

In fairness to Board Chair, Kurt Schlachter, the 350 word limit may have abridged what he otherwise would have said about the confidentiality issue. Should he wish to do so he is very welcome to expand further in the comment box below, or send an email to me. I will publish whatever he says.

There are several things which puzzle me about Mr. Schlachter’s response.

First, what does he mean by “inherently” confidential? Is there some aspect of the case not already known that cannot be identified because to identify it, even without giving any details, would in itself violate confidentiality?

Second, what are the specific terms in the Faculty Handbook, or in the tri-partite agreement, that Schlachter is using as justification for not being more forthcoming in response to Hall’s series? I see lots of reference to confidentiality in the Handbook, but none that provide for a blanket of general secrecy. As for the tri-partite agreement, are there terms about privacy or confidentiality in it? If so, might there be some ambiguity in interpreting these terms? Who should interpret them? Might such terms breach the right of the public to know whether academic freedom is being adequately protected?

As far as I can see the Faculty Handbook does not directly address the issue of limiting what the university administration can divulge in a case like this. However, in a somewhat different context (Section 17.06) which has to do with personnel committees (salary, promotion, tenure) it does make a provision for releasing the university of its obligation to maintain confidentiality:

“… if after the University has taken action based upon the recommendation of the personnel committee in his/her case, the Member makes a public statement about the reasons for that action, the University may treat those reasons as no longer confidential.”

This suggests that the university is not bound to remain silent about points made public by Professor Hall.

Third, the rationale for confidentiality typically involves respect for an individual’s desire to keep certain information secret. In this case Professor Hall has not been asking to keep information secret, so what would be the rationale for confidentiality? Is it to protect information about people other than Professor Hall?

I return to the point that I made in my original letter of June 6, 2018 (above): the principle of confidentiality is important but it cannot be used as a blanket to smother fairness and the need for transparency in protecting academic freedom.

One thought on “Hall Tells His Side of the Story in the Lethbridge Herald (June 4 – 8)

  1. Great coverage of what appears to be a despicable act of sanctimonious, legal terrorism apparently wrought by B’nai Brith and those who may fill the role [as Stalin supposedly put it] “useful idiots,” in particular but not limited to, Michael Mahon and Rachel Notley. Why is this pro-Israeli organization not stripped of its charitable registry, as well as many other unrelated entities that champion support for foreign governments? Should Tony Hall prevail, true justice might only be meted out if those instigating and propagating what appears to be libel against Tony Hall, including members of BB, the Premier and U of L president, be successfully sued and publicly exposed. Then, let Tony Hall continue to teach and raise important issues that seem to be conveniently silenced or ignored.

    Like

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