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New report blasts Canadian student unions and universities for anti-free speech stances

Twenty-three student unions were given at least one F this year, which almost doubled from 13 last year.
Jonathan Bradley Montreal, QC

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) has published the 2020 Campus Freedom Index, a report card measuring the state of freedom of expression at 61 Canadian public universities.

The Campus Freedom Index awards letter grades from A to F to universities and student unions for their policies and practices when it comes to freedom of expression.

The JCCF said they analyzed the mission, vision, and values statements of the Canadian universities that they assessed. While 69 percent of Canadian universities included a commitment to diversity and inclusion in their mission, vision, or values statement, 21 percent of them said they want to uphold freedom of expression and open inquiry.

Four universities earned an A for their policies in 2020, which remains unchanged from 2019. McMaster University, St. Thomas University, the University of Lethbridge, and the University of Windsor received As for their policies. These universities received As since they have a clear commitment to free speech in their policies, have no speech codes, do not provide funding to groups engaging in ideological advocacy, and have an anti-disruption policy.

Three universities had As for their practices in 2020, an increase from zero in 2019. Dalhousie University, U of L, and the University of Regina earned As for their practices. These universities received As because they defended freedom of expression despite pressure to censor speech on campus.

One student union earned an A for its policies this year, a figure unchanged from last year. The Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) had an A for their policies. The WUSA received an A because they have a clear commitment to free speech in their policies, have no speech codes, do not impose policies censoring campus clubs, and do not take positions on political issues unrelated to post-secondary education.

No student unions had As for their practices this year, a figure unchanged from last year. Student unions can earn an A if they stand up for freedom of expression when people call for speech to be censored.

There were 13 universities that earned at least one F in 2020, up from eight in 2019. Twenty-three student unions were given at least one F this year, which almost doubled from 13 last year.

The universities that received the most Fs were the University of Alberta, Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, and U of R. All of these universities had three Fs.

UBC received an F for their practices because they cancelled an event with The Post Millennial editor-at-large Andy Ngo that was set to take place in January. The UBC Free Speech Club booked a space at UBC Robson Square for Ngo to speak about Antifa violence. The UBC Free Speech Club paid a room booking deposit in November, but they were informed in December their booking had been rescinded with no reason provided other than to protect safety and security.

The JCCF issued a demand letter to UBC on behalf of the free speech club, warning the university would face legal action if it did not rescind its cancellation of the event. UBC did not comply with the demand letter. The JCCF has taken legal action against the university.

This year's Campus Freedom Index was the first to include a review of audited financial statements of the universities that were evaluated. Canadian universities received about $15.7 billion in taxpayer dollars.

The JCCF said on average, a Canadian public university had 43 per cent of its revenue come from government grants. They called on Canadians to contact universities and student unions and encourage them to work to improve freedom of expression.

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