Mr. Antoine Robitaille: “Linguistic terrorism” [“Terrorisme linguistique”]

The clever article below was published in French in the Journal de Montréal. It is about the ordeal of Dr. Verushka Lieutnant-Duval. Thank you Mr. Antoine Robitaille for writing it.

Bambi will share its translation below but first a few facts and thoughts…

This morning, she read in La Presse that the University of Ottawa Professor in question, Dr. Lieutenant-Duval, has received a letter of support co-signed by 579 professors of CEGEP and universities across Québec (luckily there is still some common sense in this province…):

Bambi also read a strong article by Mr. (& Dr.!) Mathieu Bock-Côté, journalist from the Journal de Montréal, entitled “Mr. Jaques Frémont [President of the University of Ottawa] against freedom of expression“: [a quick translation:].

Well, the ordeal of this part-time professor is described in the article below and you may have have heard about it. Bambi will not spend much time on re-telling it. However, just to give some perspective, we are talking about a professor who usually designs her courses stating that they are inclusive, from a feminist perspective, etc. (as per La Presse) Well, she has even cancelled a lecture to allow the students to attend a demonstration organized by Black Lives Matter (BLM). Can you imagine?! Yet, that was not enough to the student behind the campaign of “linguistic terrorism” whose victim was Dr. Lieutenant-Duval.

Today, the censorship story is about this particular instructor. Yesterday and the day before yesterday, it was about Dr. Bock-Côté AND many others in all fields and across sectors. Tomorrow, it will be about whom?

Anyhow, Bambi will stop here… here is Mr. Robitaille’s wise article entitle “Linguistic Terrorism“, hoping you will enjoy reading it as much as she did. If not, perhaps you can take the time to read it with an open mind, pause, and reflect about it. Perhaps you will see things from another perspective?


“What has happened at the University of Ottawa in the last few days is delusional.

A professor, Verushka Lieutenant-Duval, explained in a class that derogatory terms about a group can sometimes be used by the same group.

And she gave the word “nigger” as an example. She could have used the word “queer”, it seems. (Wasn’t there a bit of that in Charlebois’s “I’m a Frog, you’re a Frog, kiss me“?)

Evil took him. A student who saw an assault in this use of the “word beginning with n” filed a complaint. In spite of the educational intentions of Mrs. Lieutenant-Duval.

The latter nevertheless believed it necessary to apologize [Bambi will allow herself to add the following: Too bad/She should have not]. She was suspended, then reinstated.

Despite the contrition and the adjustments, the university will allow the shocked students to avoid the professor now [Bambi will add the following, based on her non-expert citizen opinion: Isn’t it sad, although not surprising to see spineless institutions in action…]. But let’s be reassured, the latter “is free to continue her course, which she did last Friday, as usual, enjoying her full academic freedom“, certified the rector of the University of Ottawa, Jacques. Frémont.

Ignore the intention

Academic freedom? What is the freedom to express oneself if some students no longer even have the intelligence, much less the generosity, to consider the context in which the words are used? If the university management, as it does in Frémont’s text, denies any legitimacy for members of a so-called “dominant group” to dialogue?

We are rather swimming in a kind of linguistic terrorism.

A word can be hurtful, sure, but only if it is accompanied by malicious intent. The pilloried professor had none.


On the occasion of the change of title of an Agatha Christie novel (yes, the one you are thinking of), the writer Dany Laferrière leaned, in a capsule at France Culture, on the famous hated word. The academician himself uses it in his novels, notably in the titles of two of them.

Note that exactly like Ms. Lieutenant-Duval, he believes that “to claim something which could be derogatory or insulting or which could diminish you and make it exactly your identity, is one of the oldest human revenges“.

Because for him, “the word negro is a word that comes from Haiti”; it is a word “which means man, simply“. In this country, one could even say “this white man is a good nigger“, he insists, specifying however that only people from the country can use him in this sense.

And above all, not indiscriminately. We know, says Laferrière, when we use it to insult, to “humiliate you or to crush you.” You also know when it’s for another use“.

In 2008, he slayed the writer Victor-Lévy Beaulieu who, in an article, described the Governor General of the time, Michaëlle Jean, as a “negro queen“! VLB replied that the term referred to a colonized who takes the head of a colonizing state.

But in this case, it was really a reprehensible “insult“, Laferrière had ruled. “You are not dumb enough not to feel a slap in the face,” he wrote. Likewise, one should be smart enough to “smell” when there is none.”

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