September 6, 2018

 

Dear Carleton Community,

On August 30th, the Ontario Government released a statement calling on all publicly assisted colleges and universities to develop a policy on Freedom of Speech by January 1st, 2019. The province has indicated that operating grant funding will be affected depending on the severity of non-compliance. It is unprecedented for the provincial government to weaponize public funding for universities and colleges in order to comply with policies.

Furthermore, the provincial government is suggesting universities and colleges should police the speech of students’ unions, which would include the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA). Students’ unions are member-driven, democratic student organizations that are separately incorporated bodies that cannot, and should not, have policies imposed on them by university’s senior management. The Graduate Students’ Association is a strong supporter of freedom of speech, open discussion, free inquiry and academic freedom; however, the creation of such a policy has many dangerous implications.

While this initiative couches itself with language that presents itself as a policy that promotes free speech and expression, in reality, it very clearly represents a limitation on free speech and government intervention into freedom of expression. This policy represents an attempt to curtail freedom of expression on a variety of issues. There is also a question as to whether this policy can be implemented arbitrarily, as it is unclear as to who would be the arbitrator with regards to any issues on campuses.

It is important to acknowledge that this policy will move very quickly through the legislature to comply with the January 1, 2019 deadline. As such, the GSA plans to organize campus wide to resist this initiative, and we call on all students, staff, faculty, departments, unions, associations and societies on campus to join us in forming a united front despite the threats of funding removal from our institutions.

The GSA strongly encourages members to vocalize any and all opposition to the government’s attempts to police students, staff and faculty on campuses.
If you require further information, have any questions or want to get involved, please be in touch with Vice President External at vpx@gsacarleton.ca

Helyeh Doutaghi
Vice President External
Graduate Students’ Association (GSA)
Carleton University – Ottawa – Unceded Algonquin Territory