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Jordan Peterson and Bill C-16: What does each side argue?

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Raya Tripathi

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Jordan Peterson and Bill C-16: What does each side argue?


Global Views 360

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February 7, 2021


Jordan Peterson speaking at a Free Speech Rally at the University of Toronto

Jordan Peterson speaking at a Free Speech Rally at the University of Toronto | Source: Wikimedia

Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist by profession, shot to fame in 2016 when he began protesting against the Bill C-16. He released his own video lecture series on the subject as well—which garnered millions of views. Some people support him, while others oppose him, but who is Jordan Peterson and what are his ideas? And what is it about Bill C-16 which divided the public opinion about Peterson?

These are the questions which this article will uncover.

Who is Jordan Peterson? And what are his ideas?

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical Psychologist by profession and was a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He rose to intellectual stardom after taking a stand against “politically correct culture” and Bill C-16. He started protesting against the excesses of the cultural left. He has written several books including 12 Rules For Life, Maps of Meaning, Political Correctness, etc. While most of them are Self-help books, some are also on the idea of political correctness and its criticism, and where the left has gone wrong. He released his video lectures online on YouTube which have gathered massive views and followings, and gave him the celebrity status. Peterson’s videos on C-16 and political correctness racked up more than 400,000 views on YouTube within about a month of posting.

Although several newspapers such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have described him as “conservative” and “conservative-leaning”, Peterson calls himself a “Classic British Liberal” and a “traditionalist”. He has said that he’s commonly mistaken to be a “right winger”, which he denies.

The University of Toronto said it had received complaints of threats against trans people on campus. There are complaints from students and faculties that Peterson’s comments are “unacceptable emotionally disturbing and painful” and have urged him to stop doing it.

On the other hand, Dr Peterson is concerned proposed federal human rights legislation "will elevate into hate speech" his refusal to use alternative pronouns. He argues that terms like "gender identity' and "gender expression" are too broad, and will be used by “radical social constructionists” to bully their opponents into submission. "One is silent slavery with all the repression and resentment that that will generate, and the other is outright conflict. Free speech is not just another value. It's the foundation of Western civilization," he told the BBC.

Many feckless young men have started following him—often using his ideas against the transgender community. Fans of Peterson and his ideologies saw the video as proof of his genius and bravery; Peterson was the avatar of reason and facts pushing back against irrational “social justice warriors” (SJWs). There were rallies both for and against Peterson in Toronto, and he made the rounds on Canadian television.

What is Bill C-16?

The law is an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act by adding "gender identity or expression" as a prohibited ground of discrimination. That makes it illegal to deny services, employment, accommodation and similar benefits to individuals based on their gender identity or gender expression. A person who denies benefits because of the gender identity or gender expression of another person could be liable to provide monetary compensation.

Similarly, the law also amends the Criminal Code by adding "gender identity or expression" to the definition of "identifiable group" in section 318 of the Code. If there’s evidence that an offence is motivated by bias, prejudice or hate, it can be taken into account by the courts during sentencing.

It would also extend hate speech laws to include these two terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” and make it a hate crime to target someone for being transgender, publicly inciting hatred or advocating genocide.

Peterson and Bill C-16: Arguments from both the sides

Apparently, not everyone is convinced that Peterson is a thinker of substance. Last November, fellow University of Toronto professor Ira Wells called him “the professor of piffle”—a YouTube star rather than a credible intellectual. Tabatha Southey, a columnist for the Canadian magazine Macleans, designated him “the stupid man’s smart person”.

Dr Peterson's University of Toronto colleague, Dr Lee Airton, argues he is being alarmist and indulging in "slippery slope fallacies" on the limits of free speech.

"If you actually listen and you parse out the arguments, it becomes very clear that this not about freedom of speech, that this is about reducing transgendered people's needs as excessive and illegitimate," he told the BBC.

The bill was passed in the Senate. Before it was passed, there were a lot of debates and deliberations on the bill and what kind of effects it may have.

Senator Grant Mitchel | Source: Canada Senate Website

“This bill is not only about the protections it provides, but also the message that the Parliament is delivering to all Canadians about the need to treat everybody equally,” Independent Alberta Senator Grant Mitchell, who is also a longtime advocate for trans rights, said after the bill’s passage.

Few conservative senators voted against the legislation. Conservative Manitoba Senator Don Plett has called it a threat to free speech. He alleged that he feared the bill would force him to use gender neutral pronouns when addressing trans people. There is also a largely refuted myth among conservatives that this law will allow “men to pose as women to attack them in the bathroom”. Conservative Ontario Senator Lynn Beyak said, “As a woman, why would I support Bill C-16 when feminists have fought for so many years to protect women from the violence perpetrated against them by men. This will allow men to go into women’s change rooms and bathrooms across the country.”

This bill has been intensely debated, and as the trans community is happy that the bill would provide their vulnerable community, the feminists fear it could bring threat to spaces reserved for what they refer to as “female-born women”.

Critics have also voiced concerns that the law will penalize citizens who do not use specific pronouns when referring to gender diverse people.

Brenda Cossman from University of Toronto | Source: CBC.CA

Brenda Cossman, law professor at the University of Toronto and director of the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, told CBC, “The misuse of gender pronouns, without more, cannot rise to the level of a crime,” she says. “It cannot rise to the level of advocating genocide, inciting hatred, hate speech or hate crimes … (it) simply cannot meet the threshold. Would it cover the accidental misuse of a pronoun? I would say it’s very unlikely. Would it cover a situation where an individual repeatedly, consistently refuses to use a person’s chosen pronoun? It might.”

The Canadian Human Rights Act does not mention pronouns either. The act protects certain groups from discrimination.

But now the question was, if a person disagrees to use the pronouns for a person repeatedly on purpose, will it land that person in jail? To this, Jared Brown, commercial litigator at Brown Litigation, who often works with corporate clients on employment law and human rights disputes, told CBC, “It is possible, through a process that would start with a complaint and progress to a proceeding before a human rights tribunal. If the tribunal rules that harassment or discrimination took place, there would typically be an order for monetary and non-monetary remedies. A non-monetary remedy may include sensitivity training, issuing an apology, or even a publication ban. If the person refused to comply with the tribunal's order, this would result in a contempt proceeding being sent to the Divisional or Federal Court. The court could then potentially send a person to jail “until they purge the contempt,”” he said.

Furthermore, he said that the path to prison does exist—but only in extreme cases—and it’s not that easy to get there, he mentions “The path to prison is not straightforward. It’s not easy. But, it’s there. It’s been used before in breach of tribunal orders.”


A law to protect transgender rights and allowing them to identify the way they are comfortable is indeed a progressive step for Canada. Although the laws do not impose any threat on the citizen’s safety or freedom of speech, some parts of it as argued by Mark S. Bonham is a little vague. Therefore, solutions to the problems should be addressed by the government of Canada.

However, what is also clear that Jordan Peterson’s action is just spreading misinformation and hysteria among people who are unaware of the law and are contributing towards a transphobic discourse.

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April 13, 2021 7:47 AM

Are India's Antitrust laws effective at controlling monopolies?

On 15th of July 2020, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) held its annual general meeting of the shareholders. The chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani, announced that global tech giant Google would be investing $4.5 billion in Jio Platforms. Facebook also has acquired a 9.99% stake in Jio Platforms. This is the first time in the world that both the global tech giants have invested in the same entity. These investments have boosted the confidence for Jio Platforms and also for India’s growth but there have been questions and speculations about the potential anti-competitive makeup of these deals.

The objective of this article is to explore the interpretation and the effectuality of Antitrust laws in India.

Anti-competitive practices are those business practices which firms engage in to emerge as the or one of the few dominant firms, who will then be able to restrict inter firm competition in the industry in a bid to preserve their dominant status. The Collins English dictionary defines antitrust laws as those laws that are intended to stop large firms taking over their competitors by fixing prices with their competitors, or interfering with free competition in any way. These laws focus on protecting consumer interests and promoting a competitive market. The word ‘Antitrust’ is derived from the word ‘trust’. A trust was an agreement by which stakeholders in several companies transferred their shares to a single set of trustees.

In present-day India, talking about market dominance Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), resembles American company—John D Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company—of the early 20th century. Mukesh Ambani holds the highest ability to influence markets and policy in every sector in which RIL is present—petrochemicals, oil, telecom, and retail. Many industry experts and critics suggest that Ambani has used his political clout to twist the regulatory framework in his favor.

Gautam Adani, founder of Adani Group | Source: Twitter

Furthermore, economic power in aviation infrastructure is clustering into a few hands as well. In 2019, the Adani Group bagged the 50-year concession to operate all the six Airports Authority of India-operated airports—Lucknow, Jaipur, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Trivandrum, and Mangaluru—which were put up for auction. The company also obtained a controlling stake in ‘The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai’ from GVK Airports. Moreover, Adani Group is now set to construct the Navi Mumbai International Airport. The group is now eyeing Indian Railways while they have already established an alarming monopoly in green energy and sea ports. While Airports are natural monopolies, one private company controlling more than 8 important airports is not good news to airlines.

India has established antitrust laws to promote competition. For 40 years, India followed the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1969 (MRTP). This act was based on principles of import substitution and a command-and-control economy. However, over time several amendments had to be made to the act. In 2002, the Indian approved a new comprehensive competition legislation. This is called the Competition Act 2002. The act focused on regulating business practices in order to prevent practices having an appreciable adverse effect on competition (AAEC) in India. The act primarily regulates three types of conduct: anti-competitive agreements (vertical and horizontal agreements), abuse of a dominant position, and combinations such as mergers and acquisitions. The act lists out the cartel agreements that it intends to prevent. This list includes price-fixing agreements, agreements between competitors seeking to limit or control production, market-sharing agreements between competitors and bid-rigging agreements. These agreements are called “cartel” arrangements.

The competition Act is enacted by the Competition Commission of India (CCI), which is exclusively responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Act. It comprises a team of 2 to 6 people appointed by the government of India. The CCI has previously handled high-profile cases. In 2018, CCI imposed a fine of Rs135.86 crore on Google on the grounds that Google misused its dominant position and powers to create a search bias. In another important case, the CCI, ordered a probe into Idea, Vodafone and Airtel when Reliance Jio owner Mukesh Ambani lodged a complaint against the three for forming a cartel and denying Jio the POI required for network connection, causing multiple call failures. The Cellular Operator Association of India was also probed for encouraging the same.

In some cases, the Competition Commission has been successful in tackling activities that are against the free competitive market. However, critics and economists believe that the act is now unable to adapt to the changing business environment in e-commerce, telecom, technology and the government’s role in distorting competition. Demonetization and GST drove the formalization of the economy. One consequence of them was that bigger, better organized players gained at the cost of smaller ones with lesser resources. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) was designed to solve the problem of non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks. But consequentially, it has also led to a consolidation in many sectors.  

However, CCI has expressed inability to consistently adjudicate punitive measures due to obligation in several cases. This points to the loopholes in the very provisions of the Competition Act 2002. In an Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) article, Aditya Bhattacharjea—an Economist—argues that even though the 2002 Act represents an improvement from the MRTP Act which was extremely restrictive, the present act also remains riddled with loopholes and ambiguities. According to Bhattacharjea, this creates unnecessary legal uncertainty, which acts in advantage of lawyers and law firms. For instance, the act allows the CCI to leave some scope of flexibility for “relative advantage, by way of contribution to the economic development.” Bhattacharjea argues that this may allow large firms to justify their anti-competitive practices in the name of development.

Mark Zuckerberg and Mukesh Ambani having online interaction after Facebook invested in Jio Platforms | Source: NDTV

Data portability plays a significant role in determining market power of certain firms. In 2017, the CCI closed cases against both WhatsApp and Jio involving allegations of predatory pricing and privacy violations. In both these decisions, the regulator did not consider the restrictions around data portability as a competitive advantage. The possible data leveraging advantage for the attempted monopolization could be the ‘portfolio effect’. Portfolio effect refers to increasing the range of brands, by bundling of telecom or messaging service and other service offerings or illegal vertical restraints, even predatory pricing. This in turn may lead to greater ability of further leveraging, deterring innovation and results in degradation of quality. Another possible advantage is explained as the theory of leveraging. The best example of leveraging is when Microsoft entered the media-player market by extending its quasi-monopoly on the operating systems market by taking advantage of the indirect network effects. In case of Facebook acquiring 10% of Jio’s shares, it is a concern that both entities could potentially use WhatsApp’s market dominance in telecom and social networking services and establish dominance in e-commerce market through anticompetitive acts.

There was a consensus among Indian policymakers at the time of the 1991 economic reforms that economic liberalization would eliminate the nexus between the business elites and the policymakers. On the contrary, the relationship between these two groups got further strengthened.

On the other hand, few critics and industrialists argue that extreme restrictions on growing companies hampers the progressive growth of the national economy. While RIL’s Jio looks like a cause for concern, the company has also saved Rs. 60,000 crores for annual savings in India. In addition to that, the entry of Jio to the telecom industry has led to a rise in data consumption and improved accessibility and affordability of the internet across the nation.

However, the concern still lingers as the question of whether this growth is a result of actual innovation or crony capitalism remains unsolved.

However, the fact that telecom, organized retail, ports and airports have two or three players controlling the bulk of the sector needs to be addressed. A healthy competition is quintessential for long-term growth and innovation. Harmful trade practices and cartelization does not only affect small manufacturers but also the general public.

The government, CCI and other lawmakers must closely examine the present laws and provisions and need to see if they are required to amend the act.

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