Losing our autonomy is not in line with free speech absolutism

Re: “The Explainer: How Ford’s free speech policy mandate will affect student groups”

Losing our autonomy is not in line with free speech absolutism

Ontario universities receive a great deal of funding from the government of Ontario. Unfortunately for Doug Ford, however, that does not then require those universities to extol the ideologies of that government. That is, in fact, the antithesis to the purpose that universities exist to serve.

Furthermore, it is contrary to the traditional values of the conservative right for a government to impose itself on the activities of public institutions and the public in general. The flag-bearer of free speech himself, Jordan Peterson, is lauded by advocates of absolute freedom of speech for reeling against what he has termed “compelled speech.”

By creating a mandate which threatens to revoke funding for student groups which do not consistently abide by the terms of the new free speech policy, Ford’s government is about to implement, in essence, exactly the sort of compelled speech mandate which its Petersonian supporters so emphatically condemn.

There should be no reason that a place of learning and the pursuit of societal betterment should be forced to accept speakers whom they deem to be undermining this aim, or to give these individuals a platform that legitimizes such claims as if they were acceptable or reasonable.

This applies twofold to student associations, which can be places of refuge for students to come together under a collective set of principles or beliefs, and it is unclear as to what extent the provincial government will enforce the new policy.

Student groups at Wilfrid Laurier University recently used the screen of free speech to justify an invitation to white nationalist Faith Goldy. Will a Jewish Students’ Association, for example, be reprimanded for disallowing the flow of opinions if they do not allow a Holocaust denier into its gatherings? It would certainly be inspiring if the University of Toronto Campus Conservatives invited a member of the NDP Socialist Caucus U of T Club to speak at their meetings, and vice versa.

The Ford government has no business, however, forcing this or similar scenarios to occur under threat of defunding.

Anna Osterberg is a first-year Master of Teaching student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Provincial government to repeal Bill 148, targeting minimum wage, workplace legislation

U of T under fire for membership in anti-Bill 148 lobby group

Provincial government to repeal Bill 148, targeting minimum wage, workplace legislation

Premier Doug Ford’s government introduced legislation on October 23 to repeal parts of Bill 148 — the law that raised Ontario’s minimum wage from $11.25 to $14 an hour and strengthened workplace laws related to paid sick leave, equal pay for equal work, and other workers’ rights.

The University of Toronto has come under fire from local labour unions for its membership in the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), an independent, non-partisan business lobby group that has been a vocal supporter of repealing the bill. As a corporate member, U of T does not have voting rights but it can still influence the policy agenda.

Bill 148, titled the “Fairer Workplaces, Better Jobs Act 2017,” was introduced by the previous Liberal government in November 2017. The bill was set to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour in January 2019, but Ford’s government has capped minimum wage at the current $14 an hour.

The OCC has taken a strong stance against the bill. The group cites claims of unintended price inflation on goods and services, as well as cutbacks on staffing and benefits by small businesses, among its grievances.

“In the months following its introduction, the Fair Jobs, Better Workplaces Act has had a visible impact on the Consumer Price Index, resulting in price increases for everyday consumer goods and services for every family in Ontario,” read an OCC press release from October 23.

Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC, said in a statement that “as Ontario’s business advocate, our position has always been clear: Bill 148 was too much, too fast. The compounding labour reforms and unintended consequences came at too high a cost to Ontario’s economy.”

Labour unions respond

The Ford government’s plans to repeal parts of Bill 148 have been met with strong pushback. On October 23, Ontario Labour Minister Laurie Scott’s office was broken into and vandalized, and the words “Attack Workers We Fight Back $15” were spraypainted on the walls outside her office.

Labour unions have been especially vocal in their opposition to the seemingly imminent repeal of Bill 148. Emergency rallies were held across Ontario over the past week in response to Ford’s plans.

One rally was held in downtown Toronto on October 24 in front of the offices of the Ministry of Labour. Local labour groups, including the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and UFCW Local 175 and 633 were out in force. Groups held signs with messages of “$15 and fairness,” and cheers included “Hey Ford — Stop your hypocrisy! Fairness means democracy!”

The Varsity spoke to two U of T labour unions, CUPE 3261 and CUPE 3902, regarding the university’s position on the repeal of Bill 148. CUPE 3261 represents service workers, and CUPE 3902 represents sessional lecturers and teaching assistants.

“We are so very glad we were able to negotiate $15 an hour rate effective October 1, 2017 with the University of Toronto,” wrote Allan James, President of CUPE 3261, in an email. “We need a living wage, but $15 was a start. We don’t understand how anyone can afford to work in Toronto at this rate of pay.”

“It looks like [Ford] is listening to the Chamber of Commerce instead of trying to protect working people in Ontario,” James continued. “University of Toronto is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and should be advocating for equal pay for equal work.”

Members of CUPE 3902 also criticized the university’s membership in the OCC.

“As a [member] of the Chamber of Commerce, The University of Toronto is partially responsible for the lobbying of Big Business which led to this repeal,” read an email statement from Jess Taylor, Chair of CUPE 3902.

“As a leader in research, The University of Toronto should know gains for workers improve the economy, the city, and its culture. As an employer, The University of Toronto should protect its workers and should treat the people who are educating students with respect and dignity.”

“This is a grave disappointment,” Taylor said.

The university’s next steps

U of T increased its minimum wage to $15 in January to coincide with the anticipated raise mandated by Bill 148.

“Earlier this year, the University took a leadership role on this issue and increased the minimum rate of pay for most non-union casual employees to $15 an hour,” said Elizabeth Church, a U of T spokesperson. “The $15-an-hour wage is consistent with the rates of our unionized casual staff.”

The university has no plans to cap its minimum rate of pay.

Waging war

Ford’s drive to repeal Bill 148 is an assault on fair pay and work practices for Ontario workers, including students

Waging war

On October 2, Premier Doug Ford took to the floor of Queen’s Park to make an announcement: “We’re going to make sure we tell the world Ontario is open for business,” and in order to make the province “competitive around the world,” it is time to get rid of Bill 148. This decision is a massive coup by greedy employers and a blow to the rights of Ontario’s workers, including students.

Bill 148, also known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, was passed in November 2017 by the recently ousted Liberal government. Notably, it increased the minimum wage in Ontario to $14 per hour — with a further increase to $15 per hour set for January 2019.

The act established an ‘equal pay for equal work’ clause, by which part-time employees performing the same tasks as full-time employees would be paid the same wage. It also standardized the potential of a full 10 days of leave a year, whereas previously, some workplaces had no obligation to give their employees any leave. Finally, it gave workers the right to refuse last-minute shift changes without the risk of being fired.

The law is summarized on the Ontario government’s website: “Many workers struggle to support their families on part-time, contract or minimum-wage work, and many more don’t have access to time off due to illness.” It is specifically geared toward punishing predatory employers who exploit gaps in existing legislation and changes in the job market.

Students often take up part-time employment during the semester to pay their bills. Those who work in industries like retail and services — as a customer sales representative or barista, for example — stand to lose the most from the act being repealed.

Chris Buckley, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, explained that Bill 148 addressed “shamefully outdated labour and employment laws.” For example, before the introduction of Bill 148, workplaces with under 50 employees were able to refuse giving sick leave. They could also label some part-time employees as ‘independent contractors,’ exempting them from being paid as much as full-time employees.

The push for repeal has been led in part by the Retail Council of Canada (RCC). In a letter dated September 24, it argued that Bill 148 had directly led to the loss of over 46,000 jobs in Ontario’s retail and wholesale sector, with the biggest factor being the increase in the minimum wage from $11.40 to $14, forcing layoffs and increasing prices of goods.

The RCC has grossly mischaracterized this loss. The Ontario labour market has gained almost 83,000 jobs in the public sector since September 2017, despite a sharp decline in January this year. The retail industry lost only 14,500 jobs, of which over 5,000 came from the shuttering of retail giant Sears.

The RCC also said that the use of the two new days of paid leave is disproportionately higher than unpaid leave and thus shows that employees are misusing them. Its position is that, rather than amending the bill to address their concerns, the province should just start over with a repeal.

According to the RCC, worker’s rights were implemented too quickly, and the minimum wage was raised too fast for businesses to cope — a convenient stance that would let employers continue underpaying workers while stonewalling any meaningful replacement legislation.

It’s not just retail; the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released a statement on August 30 with a quote from its president and CEO, Rocco Rossi: “Premier Ford pledged to make Ontario ‘Open for Business’… this begins with the reversal of Bill 148.” The OCC released its statement within a day of the Ford government’s meeting with top Canadian banks.

This was no coincidence. By opening himself up to the advice of ‘experts,’ Ford was inviting big business interests and lobbying. While the Ford government has yet to introduce legislation to repeal Bill 148, it seems that the move to repeal it is almost a foregone conclusion.

The arguments for repealing this act are misleading. Part-time employment takes a natural dip in the summer. Before the implementation of two paid sick days with Bill 148, sick leave was rarely taken because employees could not afford to miss work, even for the benefit of their own health. The province is labelling this as a victory for Ontario’s economy, when it disenfranchises workers who were already being treated cynically by service and retail industries.

Ford’s eagerness to accept lobbyists into Queen’s Park betrays how willing he is to deal with moneyed interests in even the early stages of his premiership. Furthermore, aiming to repeal Bill 148 shows his disregard for poverty-stricken and student workers and how the province is clueless, or at least willfully ignorant, about the state of Toronto’s job market.

The introduction of Bill 148 was a step toward fairer work practices in a province lagging behind in terms of workers’ rights. If Ford repeals the bill, the employees of Ontario will know that he does not have all of their best interests in mind.

William Cuddy is a fifth-year Political Science and History student at Victoria College.

Problematizing Ford’s anti-environmental agenda

The Ontario PC government’s regressive anti-green policies threaten significant costs to the economy and our university

Problematizing Ford’s anti-environmental agenda

Last week, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives tabled legislation to repeal the Green Energy Act, 2009, as a part of Premier Doug Ford’s campaign promise to decrease the cost of electricity on consumers. It is seen as a largely symbolic move, in the wake of the party’s recent announcement that 758 renewable energy projects authorized by the act will be cancelled immediately. Ford fails to consider the consequences of these regressive actions, which will likely end up hurting thousands of jobs while incurring more costs on consumers and small businesses.

There is no evidence that halting hundreds of renewable energy projects will decrease the price of electricity. Former Energy Minister George Smitherman says that green energy is not the sole reason for electricity rates more than doubling across the province over the past 10 years. Other energy projects, such as the rebuilding of the Pickering and Darlington nuclear plants, the construction of hydroelectric dams in Northern Ontario, and increased delivery fees, have all contributed to rising electricity prices.

Presiding Energy Minister Greg Rickford says the move will save provincial ratepayers $790 million. However, John Gorman, president of the Canadian Solar Industries Association, calls it “preposterous” to act as though cancelling these relatively small-scale projects will result in savings for consumers as the government has yet to actually pay any of the companies. In reality, it will mean significant job losses in the industry and added costs to the small businesses invested in the sector.

While Ford claims that the act resulted in fewer manufacturing jobs, interim Liberal leader John Fraser is concerned that cancelling it will mean job losses for thousands of Ontarians that have been gainfully employed by the now-halted renewable energy projects. This concern is echoed by Gorman as well as New Democratic Party energy critic Peter Tabuns.

Rather than saving consumers money, this decision directly impacts small investors like farmers, school boards, municipalities, and First Nations groups who have retrofitted their properties with solar panels, for example, as well as the local installers, contractors, and engineers involved in the projects.

In addition, Gorman notes that the decision will likely lead to lawsuits, incurring more costs to small businesses and taxpayers. One such notable case concerns the White Pine Project, a wind farm in Prince Edward County that is just weeks away from completion, which the Tory government promises to put on the chopping block next week. The company behind the green energy project, wpd Canada, says the cancellation could cost more than $100 million and that they are considering legal action.

Ford’s hasty decision will result in job losses, billions of dollars wasted, and mistrust between businesses and the province. Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner points out that the sudden cancellation of hundreds of contracts with no notice or due process sends a negative message to businesses, ultimately exposing Ontario to financial risk.

Despite successfully encouraging the development of Ontario’s green energy sector, the Green Energy Act is a flawed document that was implemented poorly. Most notably, the McGuinty government neglected the Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) warnings that flooding the market in a time when renewable energy prices were dropping would potentially increase rates for consumers. The OPA advised the McGuinty government to develop the solar industry slowly in order to adjust to the declining prices of solar and other forms of renewable energy when the act was passed. Instead, there was a massive influx of contracts in the first two years. This resulted in $2.6 billion in additional spending for consumers. A 2011 report by the Auditor General claims that the government ignored the advice of the OPA because it chose “stability” for energy investors over the best interests of consumers.

Although Ford is not wrong in criticizing aspects of the Green Energy Act, the trend of hastily tabling regressive environmental policies will have significant social and economic costs.

For example, his scrapping of the cap and trade program means that universities like U of T will lose out on resourcespromised to them under its Greenhouse Gas Reduction program. UTM had received funding for a number of projects through the program, such as upgrades to air conditioning and ventilation systems and the installation of electric vehicle charging stations. Now, students will no longer see the benefits that these programs would have had on campus infrastructure or the long-term environmental and health benefits of renewable energy in general.

Madeleine Kelly is a fifth-year Ethics, Society, and Law and Environmental Studies student at New College.

Comment in Briefs: Week of September 24

Students react to ableism at test invigilator training sessions and law professors’ opposition to Ford’s notwithstanding clause

Comment in Briefs: Week of September 24

Our education system needs to do better for disabled students 

Re: “‘Ableist and discriminatory content’ described at training sessions for test invigilators”

The recent revelations coming out of Test & Exam Services (TES) are genuinely frightening for the many students who depend on TES and Accessibility Services for essential academic functions. TES has demonstrated an astonishing lack of care for the student population for which they are supposed to provide. This lack of care seems to be part of a larger, just-as-foreboding trend, which treats students like numbers, or ‘customers,’ rather than essential participants in an ever-changing institution.

While this trend may seem benign to many ‘abled’ students, it is destined to hit disabled students particularly hard. The idea that students are simply customers of a business produces a dangerous drive to optimize student results, particularly quantifiable, academic ones. Of course, this is never a good idea, and goes directly against the premise of modern higher education, but it is especially harmful to students who do not fit an optimizable academic ‘mold’ — namely disabled students.

The content present in the TES employee training material demonstrates a disturbing lack of understanding of disabled students’ basic needs. They ignore the scientifically-validated truth that many disabled students are capable of exemplary academic function with the right tools. Focusing on correcting ‘problematic’ behaviour indeed, focusing on this behaviour at all, rather than the environment that brings it about is dismissive of the truth that disabled students live every day.

Our education system should not be leaving disabled students behind. It should be finding more holistic ways to include them. Whether or not the individuals behind the TES training intended to focus on behaviour rather than identity, their approach is wrong from a human rights standpoint. The focus on optimizing behaviour rather than understanding it is cruel and will only leave deserving students behind.

As a student registered as disabled, I have used TES many times. My life at university would be much worse without them. The invigilators at TES have always been nothing but kind and understanding. They have always catered to my needs and the needs of those around me. But our understanding of the needs of disabled students must continue to grow as the education system becomes more humane and interdisciplinary.

If the repressive and discriminatory environment at TES continues to exist, these invigilators will not be able to provide for disabled students, and a large, deserving population of students will be left in the dark.

Arjun Kaul is a fifth-year Neuroscience student at St. Michael’s College.


Ford should heed the advice of U of T law professors

Re: “U of T law professor pens open letter against Ford’s threat to use notwithstanding clause”

The letter was written primarily by U of T law professor Brenda Cossman. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Over 80 Ontario law professors have signed an open letter directed at Premier Doug Ford’s threat to invoke section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms, also known as the notwithstanding clause, in order to pass legislation that would cut the size of Toronto’s city council in half.

The legislature’s ability to waive sections of the Charter without explanation is unnerving, and as such should only be considered when all other avenues have been exhausted. The purpose and power of the Charter would be undermined if section 33 was invoked any time a Premier was frustrated with the limitations it imposes. Ford’s actions reflect a troubling view that the Charter is simply a set of suggestions that can be overruled when desired. However, the role of the judiciary is to be a non-partisan actor and to make sure that legislation is in line with the rights and freedoms granted in the Charter.

The letter warns that if such a role is to be challenged, it could lead us down a slippery slope further and further away from Canada’s democratic principles. While the notwithstanding clause exists in writing, it should not be used in practice without careful consideration. If the rights granted to Canadians can be so easily thrown away, what point do they serve?

Yasaman Mohaddes is a fourth-year Political Science and Sociology student at St. Michael’s College.

Doug Ford: The First 100 Days event sees Liberal, PC speakers spar

Hart House Debate asks how Ford’s government has performed, what it has in store

Doug Ford: The First 100 Days event sees Liberal, PC speakers spar

On September 19, Hart House played host to former Deputy Premier of Ontario Deborah Matthews and the campaign manager for the Progressive Conservative (PC) party that ousted her, Kory Teneycke.

The event was organized by the Hart House Debates and Dialogue Committee and also featured Jaime Watt, an expert in government relations, and Tiffany Gooch, a public affairs consultant.

The sold-out event aimed to discuss the actions taken by Premier Doug Ford and his government since being in office for almost 100 days. The topics touched on included Ford’s climate strategy, his decision to reduce the number of city councillors in Toronto, the threat of the notwithstanding clause to achieve that aim, and the repeal of the basic income pilot project. Their opposing views and political positions came to a head on the debate room floor.

In response to a question about Doug Ford’s intention to “scrap cap and trade, scrap the federal government’s carbon tax, and cancel nearly 800 renewable energy projects,” Matthews brought up how these large and provincial-wide decisions could have a very real impact on students and the U of T campus.

“The money that was raised through cap and trade, every penny was going back into [greenhouse gas (GHG)] reduction. For example, U of T would have received significant money to retrofit buildings to reduce the GHG emissions. That money was earmarked for colleges and universities… to make the buildings more comfortable, but most importantly, to reduce GHG emissions. That money is not available anymore.”

Teneycke responded by supporting Ford’s actions, saying that cap and trade raises costs for consumers at home and results in jobs being driven to “places like China and Mexico” at Canada’s expense.

“If you believe climate change is a global problem, then it’s about global emissions. And if you’re driving jobs from environmentally cleaner jurisdictions to environmentally dirtier jurisdictions — that are using coal power and other things — you’re not actually having a positive impact on global emissions as a whole.”

The back-and-forth dynamic of these two speakers dominated the event.

Their differences were most apparent when the issue of the basic income pilot project was addressed. This experiment was meant to look at the effects of a universal basic income on poverty reduction, but it was discontinued by the Ford government earlier in the year.

Teneycke compared the guaranteed income strategy to the politics of Venezuela, a socialist country that is currently embroiled in an economic crisis.

“It is a bad approach, it’s killed more people than any set of ideas that humanity has ever come up with. So, yeah, an experiment with communism is not something the government is going to double down on.”

Although he later described the use of this comparison as “in part, flippant,” he reaffirmed his criticism of the project.

“People having more money, having more choices that affords them, is a wonderful thing,” he said. “And part of how we do that is called getting a job. I know that’s not possible for everyone in society, but more people that are employed — gainfully employed — means more money we have to help those who are in a position, whether it’s through disability or through other circumstances, to be assisted.”

In opposition to this stance, Matthews said that “if you think that a market-driven economy, a capitalist market-driven economy, has no room for taking care of those that are most vulnerable, then you are wrong.”

Matthews went on to say that the basic income pilot was, at its core, about answering one question: “If people have a little bit more money, would they actually be more likely to go back to school, to get a job, to reduce their reliance on the health care system, to reduce their reliance on the justice system?”

Because the pilot project will not be allowed to run its course, Matthews asserted that we might never know the answer to this question.

Throughout the debate, profanity was thrown around, interruptions were made, and the numerous personal comments verging on attacks “disappointed [Watt] profoundly.”

From all this, Gooch’s response to an audience member, who asked what incentives there are for young people to enter politics, sums up this chaotic event best.

“You need to enter it because it needs you.”

U of T law professor pens open letter against Ford’s threat to use notwithstanding clause

More than 80 Ontario law professors sign on

U of T law professor pens open letter against Ford’s threat to use notwithstanding clause

In response to Doug Ford’s open willingness to invoke the notwithstanding clause to push through with his plan to cut the size of Toronto City Council, law professors across Ontario, including many from the University of Toronto, issued a response entitled “The Notwithstanding Clause – Only in the Last Resort.”

Written primarily by U of T law professor Brenda Cossman and co-signed by over 80 different professors, the letter takes issue with the Ford government’s near use of the notwithstanding clause. The letter claims that the framers of the constitution believed that the notwithstanding clause should only be used in exceptional circumstances.

“Premier Ford, you have stated that you will not allow the courts to override your political mandate,” the letter reads. “You have pointed out that you are elected, while the judge who ruled against Bill 5 was appointed. This is not simply a matter of disagreeing with a court ruling. Rather, you have claimed that a majority government can not only ignore court rulings, but that it is also free to set aside constitutional rights.”

The letter points out that the notwithstanding clause has only been used in two provinces — Saskatchewan and Québec — and has been attempted in Alberta and Yukon.

“We recognize that it is entirely within your government’s power to invoke the notwithstanding clause. But it should never be the first resort – it should be the last. The notwithstanding clause must be the exception – not the rule,” the letter concludes.

Comparing free speech policies across Ontario universities

Less than half of publicly funded universities confirm they are working on a policy

Comparing free speech policies across Ontario universities

In the wake of the provincial government’s announcement that all universities must have freedom of speech policies in place by January 1, The Varsity examined the state of such policies in Ontario. Out of the 21 publicly funded universities represented by the Council of Ontario Universities, only three have posted freedom of speech policies and six others have confirmed with The Varsity that they are currently taking steps to develop one. U of T is among the universities with an existing policy.

The remaining 12 universities have no confirmed plans to develop the required policies nor do they have a publicly posted freedom of speech policy.

According to Premier Doug Ford’s government, these policies must contain a definition of freedom of speech, principles of free expression, disciplinary measures for actions contrary to the policy, and mechanisms for complaints and compliance.

Failure to comply with the provincial mandate, both in the development and enforcement of the policy, may lead to the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities reducing the institution’s operating grant. In addition to the development of free speech policies, student unions and governments are required to abide by these policies and are also encouraged to develop their own guidelines on freedom of expression.

Existing policies

U of T, McMaster University, and Wilfrid Laurier University are the only publicly assisted universities in Ontario that currently have freedom of speech policies that would theoretically conform to the mandate of the provincial government.

U of T has the oldest policy in the province, released in May 1992 under the title “Statement on Freedom of Expression.” It was established by Governing Council and acts as the university’s policy on freedom of speech.

This was reaffirmed by President Meric Gertler in September, following the Ontario government’s announcement.

“These are the principles that guide the advancement of knowledge and enable academic excellence,” said Gertler in a press release.

The U of T policy is not as fully-formed as the other universities’ ones; it serves mainly as a guideline without fully establishing the principles of free expression that are required by the provincial government.

Published in June, McMaster’s policy is outlined in the “Guidance for Event Organizers and Participants,” which was developed in collaboration with its Ad Hoc Committee on Protest and Freedom of Expression as well as the McMaster community. The policy is much more detailed about the specific elements of protest and free speech, including outlining examples of “acceptable protest and dissent.” Within the policy, roles and responsibilities are defined for audience members, organizers, and facilitators. The policy also includes a specific section to define the “Promotion of Dialogue,” which specifically addresses the inclusion of opposing viewpoints and dialogue within the context of controversial material.

After a censorship controversy in November last year, the Senate of Wilfrid Laurier University published its “Statement of Freedom of Expression” in May.

The document lays out the idea of “inclusive freedom,” which defines the role of marginalized communities and actively assures “that all members – including those who could be marginalized, silenced, or excluded from full participation – have an opportunity to meaningfully engage in free expression, enquiry, and learning.” Unlike U of T and McMaster, the statement defines the role of marginalized communities within the context of the free speech policy, encouraging active opposition through an “educational and intellectual approach.”

In progress

The University of Ottawa, the University of Windsor, Carleton University, Trent University, Nipissing University, and the University of Waterloo all confirmed with The Varsity that various degrees of progress have been made toward developing a free speech policy.

Windsor and Nipissing have both formed committees to develop policies that would abide by the mandate set forth by the provincial government.

Ottawa, Carleton, and Waterloo all endorsed a general statement by the Council of Ontario Universities that welcomes “further discussion” with the Ontario government to “balance the right to free expression with universities’ duty to maintain a civil campus environment.”

Trent confirmed that a draft is being circulated within its community. All six universities mentioned above have also committed to consultations with their provincial counterparts and cooperation with the government.

No confirmed plans

Queen’s University, University of Western Ontario, Ryerson University, Algoma University, and York University all either echo or directly endorse the statement by the Council of Ontario Universities, but have no publicly posted information on their free speech policies. They have confirmed with The Varsity that they will take action to meet the Ontario government’s mandate.

All universities have committed to meeting the deadlines set by the provincial government and pledge a thorough commitment to freedom of expression and speech.

In statements to The Varsity, a main concern of all the universities above was ensuring the maintenance of the universities’ policies on civil discourse, physical safety, and security — as well as finding a balance between freedom of expression and an inclusive environment.

Western’s Director of Media and Community Relations added in his statement to The Varsity, “We need that framework to balance the right to freely express with Western’s duty to offer a civil and inclusive campus environment, along with considerations for the safety and security of our campus community.”

The University of Guelph, Lakehead University, the Ontario College of Art and Design University, Royal Military College, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Brock University, and Laurentian University did not respond to requests for comment.