The investigation was called despite the lawyer in charge saying there is not 'anything I would describe as a formal complaint under any WLU policy' against Shepherd

Lindsay Shepherd
There are "ominous" signs that Wilfrid Laurier University's independent fact-finding investigation of the Lindsay Shepherd affair is aiming its guns at none other than Lindsay Shepherd herself.

Shepherd is the 22-year-old graduate student and teaching assistant who last month was reamed out by her supervisors for having shown two classes a video excerpt of the controversial University of Toronto psychology professor Dr. Jordan Peterson discussing the new gender-neutral pronouns in a televised debate.

Now, the National Post has learned, despite public proclamations that suggest the investigation is aimed at merely gathering the facts of Shepherd's browbeating, the investigator himself says he has been "retained to an independent, confidential fact-finding exercise with respect to employment-related matters" arising out of the Shepherd tutorials. As a TA, of course, Shepherd is an employee of the university.

In none of University president Deb MacLatchy's several press releases on the subject was there any mention of the investigator's task being employment-related.

Howard Levitt, the well-known Toronto employment lawyer who represents Shepherd pro bono, wrote Rob Centa, the lawyer Laurier hired to conduct the investigation, last weekend, asking for the details of the complaint or complaints made against her.

In reply, Centa told him "I do not believe there is a document that contains a 'complaint' made about Ms. Shepherd nor is there anything I would describe as a formal complaint under any WLU policy."

But perhaps most surprisingly, Centa also answered Levitt's question about the terms of his mandate by saying it is an employment-related matter.

"It's certainly ominous," Levitt told the Post in a phone interview Wednesday. He said it sounds like the university is taking "a backend run" at her, and that he's advising Shepherd not to meet Centa.

"I think it's a trap," Levitt said.

Centa told the Post Wednesday evening in a brief phone call that he appreciated the opportunity to comment but "there's nothing I can say," including answering the question the Post put to him, which was, "Whose employment" is he investigating?

But Levitt isn't the only one troubled by the way the university's two-pronged approach to the Shepherd affair - the Centa review and a task force that will examine the intersection of free speech and diversity rights - remains opaque.

Shepherd herself was nominated to the task force, but the Graduate Students Union then decided its president would represent "all voices" of graduate students - this at the same time she expressed support for how the "lived experiences of transgender and non-binary students" have been discounted in the Shepherd narrative and acknowledged that harm has been caused to some students.