On October 18th, at Ryerson University in Toronto and across Ontario campuses, socialist protestors picked up the mantle of free speech.
Rallies were hosted by the respective campus’ Socialist Fightback Club and were advertised on posters as an attempt to “reject Ford’s attack on free speech”.
The Marxists—well-known for their ability to organize protests— have taken to framing the “Upholding Free Speech on Ontario’s University and College Campuses” as an infringement on their rights.
They held up signs that read “ALL PROTEST IS DISRUPTIVE PROTEST” and “REJECT FORD’S ANTI-PROTEST LAW”.
A part of the mandate calls for universities to discipline students who engage in “disruptive protesting that significantly interferes with the ability of an event to proceed”.
To be clear, this does not prohibit protesting per say, it would only create consequences for actions commonly referred to as “deplatforming”. Under this mandate, storming the stage, pulling fire alarms or blocking fire exits would require the university under question to discipline any students involved in the deplatforming.
Doug Ford is taking the right approach
It is my opinion that universities won’t change their act until real financial consequences are felt. Universities are businesses after all; they have a board of directors, shareholders and attract investors in their own right.
To the provincial government’s credit, they have taken the right approach. The threat of lost funding is a real and immediate danger for post-secondary institutions. The fact that universities are toppling like dominoes to write up a free speech policy is testament to the decision’s effectiveness.
York U has already released a draft of their policy, alongside University of Western Ontario, while Ryerson is currently undergoing the consultation phase of theirs.
…But government policy is not the answer
As a student at an Ontario university I’ve had firsthand experience calling out the various threats individual liberty has faced on campuses Canada-wide. I’ve helped organize a free speech rally at Wilfrid Laurier University, I’ve reported on student union abuses and I have encountered scabby left-wing protestors a number of times.
Over the last year the political lip service to these issues has been scant, hollow and exclusive to the right of the political spectrum. So when I heard the newly elected Ontario government was going to mandate universities to have free speech policies I was initially relieved. Finally something is being done.
Yet as time passed by, I began to have serious doubts.
The left will now resort to crying persecution
Formerly, it was hard for the left to argue that they were on the side of free speech since more often than not they were facing up against fellow students, coworkers and citizens. Their vigilante tactics were easily recognized as the bullying that it is.
Yet now that the “big bad government” has decreed that it will take action against those institutions which are not conducive to free expression, the left can now rebrand its efforts as sticking it to the man.
The calls to deplatform will now become cries of persecution. According to their muddled minds, they have a right to threaten, fire, physically assault, and silence anybody they want and they’ll be damned if anybody punishes them for it.
Paternalistic government coddles the younger generation
Perhaps the reason I felt relieved when I heard Doug Ford’s announcement was because I felt like my work was done.
Now that the government has taken on the responsibility of protecting free speech, I can finally be at ease. I would now be able to rest easy and know that my fight is done. However, this betrays a fault in my generation—the fact that we expect others to do everything for us.
The best thing the government can do for its future leaders is to equip them with the abilities needed to maintain and protect the freedoms they have inherited. Sheltering them through protective policies is not the answer.
The policies instituted by the universities will be symbolic at best. Despite being required to annually write reports to the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, it does not mean that any substantial change will take place.
The same professors will be teaching students, the same clubs will force their views upon others, and student unions will continue to serve the interests of the few instead of the diverse student bodies they represent.
It is both in the interest and the sole responsibility of students to call out the behaviour of their peers. Our quality of education, our personal and professional development and our future are all at stake.
The Ontario government’s decision to mandate free speech is coddling under a conservative guise. Over the last year, awareness about the issues at hand has grown across the country and beyond, and it’s not the doing of politicians or government policies. It’s all because of a few brave students and faculty, willing to wager great risk for an uncertain reward.