More than a month after the Jan. 1, 2019, deadline the Doug Ford government gave Ontario universities to develop and enact an institutional free speech policy, the state of free speech on campus remains precarious and uncertain.
Responses from the Canadian academic community have been mixed.
Some professors and students are supportive, while others, including the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), have denounced the free speech policy requirements as “a solution in search of a problem,” saying the “campus free speech crisis” is a false narrative meant to appeal to a far-right political base.
The evidence in the Justice Centre’s annual Campus Freedom Index shows campus censorship is a real problem at Canadian universities. Nearly half of the universities surveyed fail to uphold free expression and academic freedom on campus.
Into this uncharted territory of government-mandated university free speech policies, there are doubts as to how it might proceed.
There are three key things to watch for:
— Protest vs. Disruption: Local Marxist student groups, such as Socialist Fightback, were immediately vocal about what they view as Ford’s “anti-protest laws,” claiming the rules will muzzle their ability to protest “fascists” and “racists” on campus. These Marxist groups fail to recognize the line between demonstration and disruption. Freedom of expression and assembly does not protect someone who uses noise, physical obstruction and other forms of violence to prevent someone else from exercising their own free expression rights.