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Doug Ford mandates free speech policy on campuses



Eli Ridder | Report

The office of Ontario Premier Doug Ford released a statement on Thursday mandating that universities and colleges across the province must develop a free speech policy by next year.

The policy will apply to students, student groups, staff, faculty and visitors and has to include a “definition of freedom of speech” as post-secondary institutions “should not attempt to shield students from ideas or opinions they disagree with or find offensive.”

Public campuses will have to produce the free speech policy by Jan. 1 and complete an annual review on its implementation that will be published publicly and sent to the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario starting in 2019.

Read the full statement here: “Free Speech Policy”

The Avro Post has reached out to the University of Guelph-Humber, Humber College, the University of Guelph and student leaders for comment.

It is not clear how the policy will be designed at Guelph-Humber or Humber, and whether it will include student input or a vote by Guelph Senate or IGNITE.

Student group ‘compliance’

The release from the premier’s office said that official student groups or clubs at schools have to comply with the free speech policy set by its institution or it will not receive funding or official status.

The government also wants student unions to “adopt policies that align with the free speech policy”.

The mandate has importance from the point of view of the province, as it was released specifically from the premier’s office and not the education ministry.

It follows a scandal last year where a Wilfred Laurier University teacher’s assistant showed a video clip featuring controversial, right-wing professor Jordan Peterson, who works at the University of Toronto.

Kylie Brooks, a transgender fourth year at Humber College, told The Avro Post she was worried over the mandate from Ford’s Progressive Conservative government.

“I am concerned for marginalized students,” the computer programming student said.

“Will we have a repeat of what happened regarding Jordan Peterson at the University of Toronto?”

Previous Board of Directors candidate for IGNITE and Guelph-Humber student Amelia Savoie said that “I think people who are politically on either side should have the right to speak as long as it is not hateful.”

Hannah Derue, a candidate in the Guelph Senate by-election this fall at Guelph-Humber, said that she wanted a clear, “operationalized” definition of the government’s use of the word “disruption”.

“Any activist will tell you that many, if not most, effective means of protest involve some level of disruption in order to challenge the status quo,” the fourth year psychology student told The Avro Post.

“I will be looking to see how students at the University of Guelph-Humber respond to this new policy before I can comment on any action that may be taken in response to this announcement.”

Derue is referencing a part of the statement saying “that existing student discipline measures apply to students whose actions are contrary to the policy” that uses the example of consequences for “disruptive protesting”.

The Avro Post is waiting on a comment from Senate candidate Kayla Terceira as well as IGNITE leadership and currently elected senators.

More details to follow. Image of the University of Guelph-Humber from The Avro Post.

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