Rex Murphy's keynote address at the Yukon Geoscience Forum went ahead Saturday afternoon despite a small protest outside the conference and a petition to have him uninvited.
The petition was started earlier this month after Murphy wrote a column last month in the National Post. Petitioners took issue with Murphy's criticism of the assumed credibility of Christine Blasey Ford's testimony during the confirmation process of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Murphy did not shy away from addressing the petition during his remarks.
"I think they would have more luck with that petition if they had basically called up most of my family and the people who actually know me," Murphy told the packed room at the geoscience forum.
Murphy spoke for an hour on a range of topics from the importance of industry in rural Canada for employment to how mining, oil and gas industries should not be villainized.
Murphy closed his remarks by again acknowledging the petition.
"I really did want to get here. I'm really, really glad that you let me come," he said.
"And I'm also glad that you withstood the storm of that great petition and allowed me to be here."
Speaking to reporters after his address, Murphy said he didn't know there were protesters outside the hotel.
"To be honest with you, I think it's kinda silly," he said.
"I wrote something in the column, about the Supreme Court and I'm talking to [the] Whitehorse mining conference. I fail to see the connection."
"I don't think very much of it and it didn't bother me in the least."
Small protest outside conference
At noon Saturday, a group of six protesters stood outside the Coast High Country Inn, where the conference was taking place.
The protest was organized by Rachel Grantham, who also started the petition. Grantham, wearing a royal blue top and skirt, was dressed as Blasey Ford. She held a sign that read, "I'm right here, Rex. Talk to me."
Protester Ellen Bielawski said she has lived in remote mining camps for six weeks at a time. She said she has been touched inappropriately many times.
Bielawski said while she's not anti-mining, she's worried Murphy's Oct. 19 column is "an attack on free speech" because it questions "a person's right to bring forward allegations against another person."