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Petition to
Jacques Frémont (President, University of Ottawa)

Why this petition matters

Started by Denis Rancourt

A Petition in Support of Denis Rancourt

Denis Rancourt was a professor in the department of physics at the University of Ottawa from 1987 until 2009. He occupied the highest academic rank of Full Professor beginning in 1997.

Rancourt has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals and taught thousands of students.

He created the popular “Science in Society” course, which he taught in the largest auditorium on campus.

In the classroom Rancourt moved beyond a dry expert treatment of the subject-matter into addressing social implications and professional responsibility. He also experimented with and implemented grading methods intended to be less oppressive and more likely to stimulate freedom of inquiry. Still, he scrupulously adhered to his professorial responsibilities.

Rancourt was a staunch critic of university executives and defended students against institutional discrimination and racism.

The university dismissed Rancourt in 2009 on the spurious pretext that he assigned top grades to all 23 students in one advanced physics course. However, each grade assessment was demonstrably based on the respective student’s academic performance.

Rancourt’s union is still appealing the case in the courts. The university has done everything possible to derail the legal process as it spends without limit on lawyers from prestigious law firms.

The university’s persecution of Denis Rancourt has been relentless. It has arrested him on campus for “trespassing” while he facilitated an event, and locked out all his research students from their laboratory and offices without warning.


We, the undersigned, would want and expect the University of Ottawa to answer these questions:

Why did the University of Ottawa spy on Denis Rancourt?

The University enlisted a student spy (Maureen Robinson) to covertly surveil Denis Rancourt for more than one year while he was a professor. She provided weekly reports about Denis Rancourt to the university; used a false cyber identity (“Nathalie Page”); and falsely represented herself to third parties. The spy’s actions were condoned by her immediate supervisors: Dean André E. Lalonde and University Legal Counsel Michelle Flaherty (subsequently Chair of the Human Rights Tribunal for Ontario, now a law professor). The spy’s role was described by an Ontario appellate-court judge as “troubling at best.”

Why did the University of Ottawa smear Denis Rancourt with a hired psychiatrist using misappropriated personal information?

In 2008, University VP-Governance Nathalie Des Rosiers (subsequently Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, now Minister of the Environment for Ontario) coordinated a capture of Denis Rancourt’s intimate childhood information for use by a hired psychiatrist, to render a written “psychiatric opinion” of the professor without his consent or knowledge. The university did not inform Rancourt of its actions, and vigorously opposed his access to the psychiatric report until the final hour of an appeal in litigation for access in 2017.

Why did the University of Ottawa destroy Denis Rancourt’s professional research?

The University acknowledges that it destroyed Rancourt’s large and unique collection of scientific samples. He considered himself their custodian on behalf of the scientific community. Many of the samples were irreplaceable and priceless.[*] The Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa (APUO) has assumed a $1.25 million grievance concerning this destruction.

It is Time for a Fair and Equitable Resolution

We, the undersigned, believe that the University of Ottawa must immediately cease and desist from harassing Denis Rancourt. He deserves a reasonable settlement that will enable him to resume his professional work as an educator and scientist.

[*] The hundreds of destroyed scientific samples included the only large non-oxidized piece of the Santa Catharina meteorite, in which the meteoritic metallic phase “antitaenite” was discovered; the only large sample of remnants of the K/T boundary meteorite that may have killed the dinosaurs; unique suites of synthetic layer silicate compounds; suites of loess-paleosol samples (ancient soils) from two sites, in China and Eastern Europe; preserved samples of sediments from 100 lakes in Canada, from the largest study of its kind in the boreal forest; synthetic compounds and alloys having unique electronic, magnetic, and magneto-volume properties.


Tim Anderson - Senior Lecturer in Political Economy, University of Sydney

Eva Bartlett - Independent journalist

Peter Biesterfeld - Journalist, Now Magazine Toronto

Ignacio Chapela - Associate Professor, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley

Edward C. Corrigan - Human rights lawyer, author and media commentator

Yves Engler - Author, public intellectual

Norman Finkelstein - Author, public intellectual

Jesse Freeston - Documentary film maker and journalist

Hazel Gashoka - M.A. Candidate, Health Policy & Equity, York University

Mireille Gervais - Director, Student Rights Centre, Student Federation of the University of Ottawa

Peter Gose - Professor, Carleton University

Vigil Grandfield - Investigative journalist

Joseph Hickey - Executive Director, Ontario Civil Liberties Association

Claude Lamontagne - Retired Professor of Psychology, University of Ottawa

Stephen Lendman - Journalist, USA

Cynthia McKinney - US Congresswoman for 12 years, first African-American woman to represent Georgia in the House of Representatives

Rick Mehta - Associate Professor of Psychology, Acadia University

Mark Mercer - Full Professor; Chair, Department of Philosophy, Saint Mary's University; President, Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship

Adele Mercier - Associate Professor, Queens University

Gary Metallic Sr - District Chief, Gespegawagi Overseers Tribal Council

Marc Morano - Director, Climate Depot

Robin Öberg - PhD Candidate, Anthropology, Exeter University

Jeff Schmidt - Author of Disciplined Minds, and former Physics Today magazine staff editor

Michel Seymour - Professeur titulaire, Université de Montréal

Marc Spooner - Professor of Education, University of Regina

Ken Stone - Activist, Hamilton, Ontario

Julia Tourianski - Producer, Brave the World

Jean-Marie Vianney - Coordonnateur, Union provinciale des minorités raciales et ethnoculturelles francophones


Background links:

Academic Freedom? How Nasty Can a University Be? -By Denis Rancourt

A letter to President Fremont, with attachments



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