Campus LifeNews

Offensive comments by U of A lecturer spur student backlash

The Ukrainian Students' Society has demanded President David Turpin immediately reprimand and terminate the lecturer for his comments about the Holodomor

TRIGGER WARNING: Be advised the following article reports on comments that some may find offensive.

A University of Alberta lecturer is facing student backlash after making a controversial post on his personal Facebook page.

U of A assistant lecturer Dougal MacDonald made a Facebook post on November 20 at 12:55 a.m. where he said the Holodomor is a “lie” and perpetuated “myth.” The Holodomor is recognized by most Canadian legislatures, the federal government, and 16 United Nations member states as a genocide against the Ukrainian people created by Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union from 1932 to 1933. The U of A’s Ukrainian Students’ Society is calling for MacDonald’s immediate reprimand and termination due to his comments.

In his post, MacDonald said both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Legislative Assembly of Alberta repeat the “lie” of the Holodomor every year through announcements and statements. He added that the Nazis created the “myth” of the Holodomor “in 1933” as a way to “discredit the Soviet Union,” who the Nazis saw as “the enemy they most feared.”

The complete post was captured in screenshots by The Gateway and are included at the bottom of this article. MacDonald is listed as part of the faculty of education, specifically in elementary education. In the 2019 federal election he ran as a candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona for the Marxist-Leninist Party.

“In Canada, former Nazi collaborators and their spawn have long led the phony Holodomor campaign,” MacDonald wrote in his post. “Once in Canada, and with the help of the Canadian state, these war criminals built reactionary domestic organizations… which persist to this day.”

“Trudeau’s support for the anti-communist, pro-Nazi Holodomor myth is no accident,” MacDonald added. “The Trudeau government’s promotion of the Holodomor myth is more of its self-serving agenda to attempt to rewrite history.”

The dean of the faculty of education did not respond to requests for comment from The Gateway.

Ukrainian Students’ Society calls for MacDonald’s immediate reprimand and termination

The U of A Ukrainian Students’ Society issued a statement and letter to President David Turpin on November 26 at approximately 9 p.m. on its Facebook page condemning MacDonald’s comments, saying the organization is “doing everything (in its) power to make sure appropriate action is being taken.”

Specifically, the group is calling for MacDonald’s immediate reprimand and termination from the U of A.

“The Ukrainian Students’ Society is extremely disturbed and ashamed that a University of Alberta Faculty member has expressed this hateful behaviour,” they said in the statement. “We are appalled to have these false beliefs associated with our campus and our organization and insist that immediate action is taken.”

“We call upon the University of Alberta to immediately reprimand and terminate Dougal MacDonald for anti-Ukrainian hate speech and denial of the Holodomor,” they wrote.

The Ukrainian Students’ Society said they have engaged the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union with regards to this matter. They are also asking students, staff, family, and community members to send emails expressing their concerns to the dean of the faculty of education and the president of the university.

U of A says it is “carefully monitoring this matter”

Deputy provost Wendy Rogers responded to the controversy in a statement on behalf of President Turpin.

She said that the university is “carefully monitoring this matter” while “balancing many interests and obligations.”

“Mr. MacDonald’s views do not represent those of the University of Alberta,” she said. “As a private citizen, Mr. MacDonald has the right to express his opinion, and others have the right to critique or debate that opinion. It is our understanding that he has not expressed these views in the context of his employment relationship with the university.”

“The university is committed to rigorous inquiry and the robust expression and discussion of ideas, where members of the university community have the right to criticize, debate and question views,” she added. “It is also committed to ensuring a diverse, equitable and inclusive learning and working environment.”

Rogers said there are supports available to any students or staff who have been negatively impacted by the expressed views at the Office of the Dean of Students.

The statement made no mention of whether any action would be taken toward MacDonald.

MacDonald responds to criticism

MacDonald responded to requests for comment from The Gateway on November 27. He submitted a statement where he says he stands by what he said.

In the statement, included in full at the bottom of the article, MacDonald said he has done his “due diligence researching into the origins of what is called the holodomor [sic].”

“I don’t debate irrational assertions,” he wrote.  “If anyone actually wants to seek truth from facts on the matter they can reach me any day.”

MacDonald added that he finds it “interesting” that a club at the U of A “thinks it can get away with deciding who has the right to speak and who does not.”

“Freedom of speech is not only a civil right which can be given and taken away,” MacDonald said. “It is a fundamental human right to work out how things pose themselves, what is relevant and what is not and voice positions which favour the interests of individuals, collectives and society as a whole. Demeaning those who seek truth from facts as ‘hate mongers’ in order to prevent them from speaking inhibits the people from working out how to solve the problems that they and the society face in a manner which favours them.”

“I will not have my voice silenced by USS or anyone else because that would be a dereliction of my duty to society,” MacDonald said.

UPDATE: At 5:25 p.m. on November 27, 2019 a statement sent on behalf of the Office of the President was included. At the time of original publication, the Office of the President did not respond in time to multiple requests for comment on the matter from The Gateway.

Adam Lachacz
Adam Lachacz
Adam Lachacz
Adam Lachacz
Adam Lachacz
Adam Lachacz

Editor’s Note (04/12/2019, 11:13 a.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Holodomor occurred from 1923 to 1933. The actual dates range was 1932 to 1933. The article has been updated to reflect this. The Gateway regrets this error.

Adam Lachacz

Adam Lachacz was the Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway for 2020-21. Previously, he was the 2019-20 News Editor, 2018-19 Staff Reporter, and a senior volunteer contributor from 2016-18. He is a fifth-year student studying history and political science. Adam is addicted to the news, an aspiring sneakerhead, and loves a good cup of black coffee.

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