Upholding free speech on publicly assisted university and college campuses

THE Ontario government said on Monday that it has delivered on its promise to uphold free speech on Ontario’s publicly assisted university and college campuses, with full compliance with its new free speech policy requirements.

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) on Monday released its first college and university free speech report, which showed that all universities and colleges are in compliance with a free speech policy that meets the government requirements.

“Our government worked quickly to protect free speech on campus, and colleges and universities have done a great job of putting consistent, effective policies in place,” said Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities.

In August 2018, the government mandated that colleges and universities develop, implement and comply with a free speech policy that meets a minimum standard based on best practices from around the world. The policy protects free speech while ensuring that hate speech, discrimination and other illegal forms of speech are not allowed on campus. Each institution was to publish its policy by January 1, 2019.

Colleges and universities are also required to post online and submit an annual report on implementation progress including a summary of compliance to HEQCO.

Students whose actions are contrary to the free speech policy are subject to existing campus student discipline measures. Any complaint against the institution that remains unresolved may be referred to the Ontario Ombudsman.

“It’s important that postsecondary students are guaranteed freedom of speech on campus at all Ontario’s campuses,” said Romano. “We have a shared obligation to ensure that colleges and universities continue to be places where students exchange different ideas and opinions in open and respectful debate.”