H. Wade MacLauchlan: Sage or censor?

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Opinion photo Dec. 3

Guest opinion by Jackson Doughart

Former UPEI President Wade MacLauchlan has announced his candidacy for the leadership of the ruling provincial Liberal Party. He is a notable figure of the P.E.I. elite, for whom political life would seem both logical and fitting. Given his résumé, MacLauchlan would doubtless make an interesting premier.

It is worth noting, however, that his reputation was earned in higher education, and that he is seeking a democratic office. These are two arenas of public life where the values of liberal speech, inquiry, and exchange are vital. A university that does not permit academic freedom fails in its scholarly mandate. And a polity which fails to make known the facts and arguments of government action fails in representing its citizens. A person would think that, given such a background, his record here would be stellar.

But H. Wade showed his true colours as UPEI’s president during the infamous Danish Cartoon Controversy, culminating with the attacks in Muslim countries against the embassies of Denmark. These violent demonstrations were reactions to the 2005 publication, in a Danish newspaper, of drawings depicting the Islamic prophet.

The threat of violence from protesters, both within and without Denmark itself, was very real in the subsequent months. Yet on the safe ground of the United States and Canada, no newspaper, magazine, or television program would even display the cartoons. This act would have suggested solidarity with the publication under attack, and more importantly informed readers and viewers of the story.

No publication, that is, with the exception of UPEI’s own student paper The Cadre, whose editors chose to reprint the cartoons for the above reasons. (They were later joined in Canada by Ezra Levant’s Western Standard magazine). At the least, students, faculty, and staff at UPEI would have been able to see the subject of controversy for themselves, rather than simply be told that a faraway rag had committed the thought crime of “causing offence”.

To its credit, P.E.I.’s Islamic association supported the right of The Cadre to print the cartoons, citing the importance of free expression. It didn’t call on the paper to be censored.

But this is exactly what happened. On order from President MacLauchlan, UPEI staff scoured the campus of all copies of the offending paper, determined to undo the editors’ Wrong Think by force.

The Cadre is run through the student union, not the university proper: a crucial distinction here. It was not MacLauchlan’s prerogative to approve or cancel the publication, regardless of his objection to its content.

He could have released a statement expressing disagreement with the paper’s decision, which would have been incorrect but still within the confines of moral action. To whitewash The Cadre’s issue, on the other hand, was not kosher.

All of this means that in just one small battle between democracy and its opposition, H. Wade was on the wrong side.

Later, he posed for photographs with a Muslim woman named Koli Hoogeveen who praised his intervention against the insulters of Muhammed. In other words, it was not enough that MacLauchlan committed the profane act of censorship. He also wanted to be praised for it!

Now, you may think that all of this represents a blip on the man’s notable career, if even a blip at all. But imagine if a Premier MacLauchlan were to learn that an unwanted or “offensive” story were being published here in The Guardian. Would he dispatch his subordinates to snatch the papers away, as he did at UPEI? I don’t think he can be trusted on this point, as the man has exhibited a totalitarian streak, becoming less of a university president than of a third world autocrat.

Call me old fashioned, but people really ought to care about this. H. Wade wasn’t up against the Globe and Mail or some lofty media empire, but a small student paper, acting on the best intentions of democratic spirit, with no tangible means to fight back.

Someone like him should be called a bully. And a bully shouldn’t be premier.

At the very least, MacLauchlan the Candidate deserves to be asked some tough questions about his stunning censorship. And if he is of better character than his former self, he will express some remorse for that shameful episode.

Jackson Doughart is a graduate of UPEI and Queen’s University.

Organizations: Liberal Party, Western Standard magazine, Islamic association Globe and Mail

Geographic location: Denmark, Canada, United States The Guardian Queen

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Recent comments

  • Allison B
    December 30, 2014 - 14:30

    Mr. Doughart, presents a somewhat shallow interpretation of Dr. MacLaughlin's actions and ignores the historical context that formed the backdrop against which this tempest in a teapot played out. MacLaughlin is no fool. It was his understanding of the negative ramifications inherent in publishing a cartoon that was disrespectful to a good many UPEI students, along with a respect for human dignity were the drivers. It was hardly an act of "stunning censorship" and I imagine it was not done lightly or without extensive consultation. I would welcome a premier with that kind of integrity and with the guts it takes to act decisively for the greater good, even at the risk of having their motives misinterpreted.

  • figaro
    December 04, 2014 - 09:25

    Interesting comments ands assessments. But here is the thing, -if we disagree with the arrogance that has prevailed during these awful Ghiz years, as well as the method used by the Liberal Party to replace Ghiz, we have a perfect chance to reject the whole mess and the anointed new leader, Mr. MacLaughlan and vote for other parties, that better fit our personal sentiments and beliefs. That is what I will be doing. I want to see representatives from all four parties in the House. This can only happen, if we think for ourselves and take the matter into our own hands, and vote for our own interest.

  • Adolphus
    December 04, 2014 - 07:29

    Best news clip of all time on P.E.I. - a gift handed to CBC's Ian Petrie. The president of our 'seat of higher learning' running to get a copy of the Cadre and then immediately proclaiming that he was having all the copies confiscated. Anyone remember 'Fahrenheit 451'? I am a UPEI graduate who refuses to support a university that I no longer recognize.

  • W Gallant
    December 04, 2014 - 07:11

    Island politics takes on new meaning of the Word,Democracy,With the announcement of W.Maclaughlan,running for Premier. We as Islanders are not stupid,but obviously and rightfully so, scared if you will ,to express our democratic right for freedom of speech,and a host of other rights,When people are apparently intimidated,to even run Against W Maclauglan,at the word of the powers in hand.My Opinion! When is greed and power/Money going to stop running our Decision making and democratic process/our live's ? Where is all this going,and What do our youth have in store for there future,I feel that the definition of The Hitler regime is still very much alive,and rare's its evil ways in the greed and power that people will go to ,at any length to get,Its in my opinion all about Power...PS Its time we started looking after our own people ,who are living in poverty ,doing without the basic nessesities of life,Again its my opinion and Iam sick to even think of my grandkids future.

  • Dianne Gallant
    December 04, 2014 - 06:23

    I totally agree with the comments above and feel a lot more is needed than someone being put in simply by the power of people with the power to do so.demoracy takes on a whole new meaning when everyone else is being suggested to back off and in my opinion are a spinoff of the Harper regime.

  • British Columbian
    December 04, 2014 - 01:32

    Huh. During that cartoon incident, the small student newspaper at undergraduate university here in B.C. wanted to publish a similar article. The president of my institution sent out similar orders for censorship. But the actions of our 'censorious' president didn't actually seem to me to have much to do with substantive censorship of any particular kind of written content. Instead it seemed to be about the president's own desire to keep a spotless record. I suppose, like H. Wade, that this desire to maintain what some imaginary public will perceive as a 'spotless' record will play into future attempts to run for higher office. But what then? More carefully engineered spotlessness? I have a hard time believing in (not to mention relating to, or trusting) people whose lives are so 'spotless'.

  • Charles M Mills
    December 03, 2014 - 18:10

    Mr. Doughart may have a very valid point here with regards to censorship. That said no one is perfect including H Wade. On the other hand he was by far the best President UPEI ever had and probably the best one they ever will have. All one has to do is take a look at UPEI before Mr. MacLaughlin became president and take a look at it afterwards and it is all to obvious the degree of improvement he has made. It is arguable that more progress was made during his tenure than all the preceding years that UPEI existed. Further I have know Mr MacLaughlin for over 40 years and no one and I mean no one can seriously question his integrity. Mistakes he might make but integrity he does not lack. If the Province of PEI can suffer similar or greater ameliorations as the university under his stewardship we should all count over selves lucky he is willing to take the job in the first place. All one has to do is look to the past to see that it will not take a great deal of improvement to put us ahead of where we are now or have been since the days of Alex Campbell. Thank you Mr MacLaughlin for throwing your hat into a thankless ring!

    • Blind
      December 03, 2014 - 21:36

      New expensive buildings, NOTHING more. You stroke your hero buy you are an empty suit. You did not name a single thing he improved at the University or how it is better now than before he took over.

    • nitpicker
      December 04, 2014 - 16:29

      @Blind. First, you understate the importance of infrastructure. Second, are you saying that no new degree/graduate programs were implemented during his regime? The calibre of the facilities and the scope of the program offerings today are night and day beyond what was there prior to McLauchlan. Now, you could fairly argue that perhaps the former president doesn't deserve 100% of the credit...but he sure gets a chunk.

    • Ellen Smith
      April 14, 2015 - 16:18

      Yes, I tend to agree with this counter-comment. Would love to see a list of the actual improvements on paper, i.e. - Financial responsibility, staff moral, student satisfaction, national and international reputation. While I am certain your personal experience with Mr. UPEI past-president have been positive, it doesn't hurt to provide the public with a few credible, concrete examples to back up your claim. With my thanks...

  • Bully at Top
    December 03, 2014 - 15:34

    Yes, the real bully is at the Top, check it out. I would estimate that 85% or more of principals in schools are bullies. Ask any teacher, parent or better yet ask the real wise people, the students. I find it a joke that we have all this media attention about students being bullied by students. What about principals who bully students, parents, and teachers. ? Teachers who bully students and parents ? What are the chances of a dictator at UPEI, as prime minister, premier, or any parish priest ? Let us open our eyes and see this Truth ! Now when are we going to confront it ?

  • huh
    December 03, 2014 - 13:17

    While I didn't, and still don't, agree with McLauchlan's response to that cartoon, you have gleaned way too much significance from the act. He's going to snatch Guardians if there is something in it he doesn't like? How silly. If this is enough for someone to not vote for him, you were already not voting for him.

  • Bully
    December 03, 2014 - 12:41

    Agree 100 %. Wade is a bully just ask staff when things didn't go his way. The former premier is a bully as well. The other similarity is racking up debt for things not really needed than making us pay for it. Thanks guys.

  • Lemouge
    December 03, 2014 - 12:33

    As usual an excellent article. If I was Wade and became Prier, I would ask Jackson to be my right hand man, brain instead of arrogant, ruthless political savvy would be such a relief for us all.

  • enough already
    December 03, 2014 - 12:28

    Wade has been anointed as premier, the first time this has happened that I can recall. This whole fiasco will backfire on the Grits ! Corruption runs so deep on this Island that Jessass himself could not dig it all out.