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Upholding Free Speech on Ontario's University and College Campuses

Backgrounder

Upholding Free Speech on Ontario's University and College Campuses

Office of the Premier

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities requires every publicly-assisted college and university to develop and publicly post its own free speech policy by January 1, 2019 that meets a minimum standard specified by the government. 

Free Speech Policy

The policy must apply to faculty, students, staff, management and guests, and it must meet a minimum standard by including the following:

  • A definition of freedom of speech
  • Principles based on the University of Chicago Statement on Principles of Free Expression:
    • Universities and colleges should be places for open discussion and free inquiry.
    • The university/college should not attempt to shield students from ideas or opinions that they disagree with or find offensive.
    • While members of the university/college are free to criticize and contest views expressed on campus, they may not obstruct or interfere with the freedom of others to express their views.
    • Speech that violates the law is not allowed.
  • That existing student discipline measures apply to students whose actions are contrary to the policy (e.g., ongoing disruptive protesting that significantly interferes with the ability of an event to proceed).
  • That institutions consider official student groups' compliance with the policy as condition for ongoing financial support or recognition, and encourage student unions to adopt policies that align with the free speech policy.
  • That the college/university uses existing mechanisms to handle complaints and ensure compliance. Complaints against an institution that remain unresolved may be referred to the Ontario Ombudsman.

Starting September 2019, each institution must prepare an annual report on implementation progress and a summary of its compliance, publish it online and submit it to the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO).

Monitoring and Compliance

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities intends to direct HEQCO to undertake research on campus free speech, and to monitor and evaluate system-level progress on the free speech policy.

HEQCO would receive, review and assess each institution's annual report, and will provide advice to the Minister.

If institutions fail to comply with government requirements to introduce and report on free speech policies, or if they fail to follow their own policies once implemented, the ministry may respond with reductions to their operating grant funding, proportional to the severity of non-compliance.

Free Speech Complaints

Individuals who wish to make a complaint regarding free speech on campus will follow the usual complaints processes that colleges and universities currently have in place.

Any unresolved complaints against publicly-assisted universities and colleges about free speech may be referred to the Ontario Ombudsman, which has the power to investigate complaints about colleges and universities.

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