Last week, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) released its yearly Campus Freedom Index. The index assesses the status of free speech at the 60 public universities in Canada.
In total, eight different Canadian universities, and 13 different Canadian university student unions received an F rating for either their policies or their practices.
The universities that received an F rating include Acadia University, Memorial University, Ryerson University, University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, University of Calgary, University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg, and Wilfrid Laurier University.
The university student unions that received F ratings include Brandon University, British Columbia Institute of Technology Students’ Association, Dalhousie Student Union, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Students Association, Lakehead University, MacEwan University Students’ Union, Student Society of McGill University, McMaster Students’ Union, Mount Allison University Students’ Union. OCAD Students’ Union, Ontario Tech Students’ Union, University of Alberta, University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society, University of Regina Student Union, and University of Victoria Students Society.
Of the 60 public universities/student unions in Canada, more institutions received “F” ratings than A ratings. Only four schools total received an A rating (Bishop’s University McMaster University, Simon Fraser University, and University of Lethbridge), though the overall trends for student unions look positive, with approximately 34 percent fewer student unions receiving a rating of an F than in 2018.
Due to new free speech requirements at Ontario universities by the provincial government, there was an overall uptick in free speech overall at universities and student unions in the province. However, F grades remain at Lakehead University Students’ Union, McMaster Student Union, Ryerson University, and Wilfrid Laurier University.
It is no surprise that both Ryerson University and Wilfrid Laurier University received F ratings. Both schools are known to shut down events with speakers who may have contentious views and have given a lot of trouble to staff members who want to freely speak their views in a totally appropriate matter.
The index lists two schools, McMaster and Lakehead who had free speech events censured by their respective university student unions, even after government reforms were put in place. This is ironic in the case of McMaster due to the university just recently receiving a grade of A for university policies.
The report also goes into detail regarding Equity, Diversity and Inclusion programming on university campuses, stating how these programs can be stimulants to censoring free speech. These programs were created from federally mandated grants to promote programming that the JCCF says to be “anti-oppression and unconscious bias strategies.”
The JCCF also released a briefing alongside the Campus Freedom Index, titled Resisting Censorship on Campus, which is a document that educates students on the rights of free speech on campus, from a legal perspective.
With the “blue wave” of Conservative premiers hitting many provinces, free speech will become much more protected in the coming years on public university and college campuses.
Free speech and free expression have always been protected as a right to every student and staff member on a university campus. The report proves to all Canadians that much more work needs to be done to preserve this right.