The Ford Government has announced that Ontario colleges and universities must comply with new, arbitrary free speech rules or face funding cuts.
Premier Ford has unilaterally forced post-secondary institutions to define the terms of permissible speech on campus by January 1, 2019. Ford further urges these public institutions to punish individual students if they are found to be in violation of the new rules around free expression.
It is unclear why the Ford Government believes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – which already defines freedom of expression – is not good enough for students, professors, and university and college staff. No reason has been provided by the Ford Government for why public colleges and universities are being targeted for this added layer of government regulation.
“Colleges and universities are crucial democratic, public spaces for exchanging ideas and engaging in rich debate,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “CUPE Ontario is united with students and our 30,000 members working at universities across the province who will fight to protect our fundamental freedoms on campuses, in opposition to this detrimental government directive.”
“It sets a dangerous precedent for the provincial government to dictate the terms of permissible speech on campus,” said Jess Taylor, Chair of CUPE Local 3902 at the University of Toronto. “Forcing universities to arbitrate free speech undermines academic independence and will have a broad chilling effect on freedom of expression.”
“Threatening cutbacks to already chronically underfunded colleges and universities for non-compliance is gravely concerning for students and workers,” said Janice Folk-Dawson, Chair of CUPE’s Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee. “Those of us who work and study on campus already see the stark reality of underfunding through skyrocketing tuition fees, crumbling infrastructure, stagnant wages and increasingly precarious work.”