Conference Organizers

How to Work Through “Cancel Requests”

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Those who organize conferences frequently find themselves embroiled in a difficult process of needing to deal with “cancel requests”. Speakers who are invited to participate may be targeted by individuals or groups. Conference organizers are then “told” to uninvite the speaker.

Conference organizing committees are not able to adequately arbitrate accusations or criticisms concerning invited guests. However, organizers take these issues seriously. To that extent we welcome legitimately raised concerns about speakers that we as organizers were previously unaware of. 

A sample disclaimer might be:

To the best of our knowledge all invited speakers adhere to the highest ethical standards as commonly agreed upon by the community.  If the cancel request has to do unethical behavior we welcome any substantiated claims to support this request.

However, organizers are neither capable nor willing to act as investigators or fact-finders. So it will only be in their purview to consider evidence of unethical personal or professional behaviour that results from an independent third party investigation, mediation, or professional complaint of  an outstanding concern. The conference organization committee will retain the freedom to assess the veracity and credibility of the third party and their results/conclusions. Third parties will not be limited to professional, judicial, quasi-judicial bodies.

As this is very difficult yet possible to navigate, we propose that organizers have a policy on this topic which is available to anyone.

The suggested steps are:

  1. When a cancel request is received, explain to the person that the psychedelic community would like to model healthy communication and this is important to the credibility of our whole community.  An important premise is that healthy communication includes fostering and maintaining positive relationships with people who we see as being like-minded AND people who hold different opinions.  Connection is often the solution to conflict and we all need to work on building connections.
  2. Discuss the fact that we have a policy of inclusion and all voices are welcomed, based on the premise that “diversity includes everyone”, even people we may not always agree with.
  3. Ask the person if they have dealt with their concerns directly with the person or the organization they are attempting to “cancel”.
  4. If the response to the above question is “no”, explain to the person that the first step in conflict resolution is discussion, and suggest they speak in person to the individual they have issues with.  Suggest that “in person” is the best, zoom is acceptable and texting or emailing concerns rarely resolves conflict.
  5. If the answer to the question in #3 is “yes”, explore in detail how this went and suggest that an independent mediated discussion is the next step to attempt a healthy process of conflict resolution.
  6. If the response is to refuse to deal with the person directly as “I don’t feel safe or comfortable”, suggest the possibility of an independent mediation  of the conflict with the goal of resolving the conflict and building connections.
  7. If the person refuses to engage in a healthy process of mediation / facilitation / conflict resolution, then inform them that the committee will is unable to move forward with any process.

Some thoughts on canceling

Some of the potentials of psychedelic medicines include healing, learning from the past and trying to become a better person. Everyone makes mistakes.

In a fair and just community, we believe that if you have made a mistake and done any of the following, (willingly and in good faith)

Acknowledged wrong-doing, expressed remorse and taken responsibility by:

  • Making amends
  • Going through remediation
  • Accepting punishment
  • Paying the fine
  • Making a settlement

Then your debt to the community and to society is paid, or well on the way to being so. 

The punishment can not be arbitrarily demanded over and over by the victim, the media or the public. This would make for an unjust society. Victims have the right to heal, not the right to punish at will.  

Additionally, there is no right to cancel people whose opinions you do not agree with. This is not a democratic right. This is a society in which we must act like adults and respect that there will be people we will not agree with and who will not agree with us. 

Ultimately, we hope that we can agree to collaborate for the good of all, elevate well-being in everyone and compensate those who have been wronged, held down, discriminated against as well as learn from the mistakes of the past and create a future that all our descendants will be proud of. 

The Psychedelic Association of Canada presents these as a resource potential and not an endorsement.

Independent Professional Conflict Reolution / Facilitation / Mediation Resources:

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The Psychedelic Association of Canada would like to thank the following people for their benevolent work on this document for the good of the community.

Mark Haden
Lorraine Percy
Dr. Pam Kryskow, MD  
Dr. Brendan Leier, PhD
Tracy Lowe
Michelle Gagnon
Scott Bernstein
Michelle Brewer