OUSA releases stance on Freedom of Speech and Expression

November 16, 2018

TORONTO, ON - Today, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) released its stance on Freedom of Speech and Expression that was written by student delegates and passed at the General Assembly on November 4th. Students believe that free speech is already protected by Canadian law on their campuses, and that they are able to engage in fruitful discussions and debate. However, students are concerned about the provincial government’s directive on free speech and OUSA asks that the provincial government rescind the directive.

“Marginalized students, who have traditionally used protest and other forms of dissent to advance societal issues, are concerned with how this directive will impact their freedom of expression,” said Stephanie Bertolo, Steering Committee member of OUSA and student at McMaster University. “It is crucial that the government completes meaningful consultations to ensure that any policies put forward are in the best interest of all students on campus.”

This fall, OUSA’s student delegates met at McMaster University to discuss and develop several policies, including developing a policy stance on Freedom of Speech and Expression. Students voiced their concerns about the government’s free speech policy, specifically related to the directive’s connection to university funding and the lack of consultation from diverse students and university groups. Students are also concerned about the politicization of this topic and the negative impacts campus “free speech policies” will have on underrepresented and marginalized communities, as well as the overall student experience.

Should the government choose not to withdraw the free speech policies, OUSA asks that the provincial government take the following steps: ensure that any funding changes do not negatively impact student experiences; ensure all Charter rights are protected, including peaceful assembly; ensure that student union autonomy is not compromised; consult with diverse university groups and marginalized communities; and ensure additional training and resources are provided to guide instructors and teaching assistants in classrooms settings.  

“We want to make sure that students can be at the table to discuss our concerns,” said Danny Chang, OUSA President and student at Western University. “We hope to provide valuable feedback that will ensure that students are not negatively impacted by the implementation of the government’s directive.”

Yesterday, OUSA concluded Student Advocacy Week. During this week MPPs from all political parties were presented with this stance to ensure the student voice is heard in government decisions going forward. To read OUSA’s full stance, visit our website here.

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OUSA represents the interests of 150,000 professional and undergraduate, full-time and part-time university students at eight student associations across Ontario. Our vision is for an accessible, affordable, accountable, and high quality post-secondary education in Ontario.

Deborah Lam
Operations & Communications Director
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
[email protected]