Ontario Universities Ordered to Protect Free Speech, of Face Budget Cuts

Ontario’s new Premier, Conservative Doug Ford, ordered colleges and universities across the province to come up with free speech policies.

They have until January 1, 2019 (one semester), to comply.

This is welcome news at least in principle.   Free speech must unrestricted, otherwise it no longer is free.

The original program from TV Ontario, a publicly funded show

Audio of the infamous Shepherd/Rambukanna/Pimlott/Joel recording

Lindsay Shepherd/Dave Rubin, Decemebr 1, 2017.

It will be interesting to see the policy once it is actually fleshed out, and how the schools will deal with it.

Further, will schools still be able to censor (even if on a reduced basis) by claiming that topics are hate speech or inciting violence?

It will be of interest to read up on the Chicago Principles, aka the Chicago Statement, which serves as a model for free speech and open inquiry in the U.S.

To fully understand this proposal, some backstory and context is necessary for the readers.

One of the main incidents was in November 2017, when Wilfred Laurier University graduate student Lindsay Shepherd made international news.  The Waterloo university staff had reprimanded her for showing part of a TVO clip (which was public TV anyway).

Needless to say the incident (which was recorded), caused a backlash against WLU specifically, and universities generally.  Lindsay herself made many media appearances, and took free speech/open inquiry as a calling.

Shepherd founded the Laurier Society for Open Inquiry, L-SOI, and has deliberately sought speakers with different and controversial viewpoints.   One event was a debate on pro-choice v.s. pro-life.

However, one event was cancelled when Faith Goldy was scheduled to talk, on March 20.

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2018/03/20/faith-goldy-talk-at-wilfrid-laurier-university-shut-down-by-fire-alarm-after-protest.html

As an aside, Lindsay Shepherd and Jordan Peterson (the prof referred to as ”Hitler”), both have legal claims pending against Wilfrid Laurier University, and the 3 staff members from the meeting: Nathan Rambukkana, Herbert Pimlott, Adria Joel.

Suppression of free speech is not at all limited to Canadian schools.    There are many examples of this happening in the U.S. as well.

(a) In 2015, Mizzou (University of Missouri), was involved in a series a race-related events.   It also involved a faculty member, Melissa Click, asking to ”get some muscle over here” to remove a journalist covering an event.

(b) In 2017, there were violent riots across Berkeley University in Berkely, California.  Berkeley holds its ”free speech week” every year.   Typically conservative and controversial speakers are invited to give new views to students.  While protests are frequent, this onethis one ended in arson, when Milo Yiannopoulis came to speak.

(c) In 2017, In Evergreen State College (in Olympia, Washington), biology professor Bret Weinstein actually caused a mob takeover of the school when he emailed that the ”day of action” was a bad policy.  This was a day where whites were to ”leave for a day”, an inversion of the ”day of absence”, where black students and faculty leave for a day.

(d) Less dramatic incidents of speakers being shouted down are  rampant throughout the news and on YouTube.  An interesting observation is that it is almost exclusively ”left-wing” protesters trying to silence ”right-wing” speakers.

Author’s Note:  This is certainly a step in the right direction.  While I certainly applaud any news the promotes and defends free speech, there are many details I would love to ask Premier Ford.  Here are a few:

(1) Will colleges/universities still be able to ban groups they do not agree with, such as men’s issues awareness, and pro-life groups?  Will they be able to weasel around this law by saying it ”protects marginalized people”?

Canadian Universities Fighting Against Free Speech and Free Association in Court

(2) Will colleges/universities still be able to ban political groups and talks it disagrees with?  One such example being University of Toronto banning the Canadian Nationalist Party, even though the founder specifically says they are not a race-based party.

U of T bars Canadian Nationalist Party from hosting rally on campus

(3) What measures will be put in place to ensure that colleges/universities can’t still suppress free speech under false claims of hate or bigotry?

(4) How will this actually be enforced?

I left university years ago.  Thankfully, as a STEM student I largely avoided this nonsense.  However, evidence of attempted suppression is everywhere.  I too despise actual hate speech and calls to violence, but false claims seem to be a convenient tactic to simply silence dissenting views from being heard. Still, this is a promising step.

Interestingly, Shepherd herself has questioned the merit and effect of “forcing” universities and colleges to adopt free speech guidelines. After all, how committed can they really be?

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