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Free Speech on Campus: KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
What is a Speech Code? • A speech code is any rule or regulation that limits, restricts, or bans speech beyond the strict legal limitations upon freedom of expression found in the Criminal Code.
Why Public Universities? • Public universities are public entities • Taxpayer-funded • Exist by Provincial Statutes • The Dalhousie University Act, e. g.
The Results • 45 universities and student unions • Only six earn at least one ‘A’ grade • 23 earn at least one ‘F’ grade
Carleton University • denies equal access to resources and facilities to a campus pro-life group, Carleton Lifeline. had four of its students arrested for trespassing because they tried to set up a controversial display in a prominent location on campus.
Wilfrid Laurier University • On March 21, 2012, university administration forced a Laurier Students’ Public Interest Group (LSPIRG) working group to take down posters regarding “Israel Apartheid Week”. • The administration sent a Special Constable Supervisor to ask the working group Laurier 4 Palestine to take down three posters deemed “offensive” saying that the posters “incited hate”. The posters in question had been displayed as part of a gallery event hosted by Laurier 4 Palestine in the Solarium.
University of Waterloo • On International Women’s Day (March 8, 2012), author Inga Muscio was invited to speak by the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG). • Upon discovering that the reserved room for the event was locked, the organizers were told by a Waterloo staff member that the speaker “should be ‘embarrassed’ by her book”, entitled Cunt: A Declaration of Independence”
University of Prince Edward Island The University of Prince Edward Island forced the confiscation of an issue of the campus paper, The Cadre, because it contained images of the Prophet Mohammed which the University felt was too controversial for the campus press. The University further pressured the student union to confiscate or remove from circulation the remaining issues of the paper.
• “When it comes to campus free speech, the only thing worse than a university is a student union. ” » 2013 Campus Freedom Index
Why Student Unions? • student unions control the registration, certification and resource allocation processes for student groups at almost every public university. • Short-term and fluid leadership • Student apathy + radicalism
Students’ Society of Mc. Gill University • • • The student group Mc. Gill Friends of Israel (MFI) planned an event, “Israel A-Party. ” Before the event was scheduled to take place, SSMU executives told the group that they would have to change the name of their event because they considered it “a mockery and/or trivialization of various oppressions some people of the world are subject to on a day-to-day basis. ” The group complied and changed the name to “A Party for Israel” so that they could still hold the event.
Saint Mary’s University Students Association • Failed to provide adequate security for a scheduled lecture on abortion. • Failed to silence protestors who were successful in making the lecturer’s speech inaudible. • Forced the event to be moved off campus.
Wilfrid Laurier Students’ Union The Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU) refused to grant official club status to the “Laurier Free-thought Alliance, ” whose mission was “to promote a fulfilling life without religion and superstition. ” The student union denied status “due to the need to respect and tolerate the views of others, ” but allowed the group to be recognized on condition that it change the wording of its mission statement.
University of Manitoba Students’ Union
Know Your Rights The legal basis for restrictions on your club’s freedom of expression rights exists on these fronts: 1| Protection under Contract Law 2| Protection under Administrative Law 3| Protection under Human Rights Codes 4| Protection under the Charter
Protection under Contract Law • Check your university’s mission, vision and values statements. • Often contradictory references regarding free expression in mission statement vs. code of conduct, discrimination policies
Protection under Administrative Law • Your club has the right to be treated the same as every other club on campus. University or Student Union officials do not have the authority to make decisions based on considerations or issues outside of such authority. They have no authority to discriminate against you based on your message.
Protection under Human Rights Codes • Some provinces include political belief in their protected grounds against discrimination. • Check your provincial Human Rights Code to find out if political belief is included in the protected grounds against discrimination.
Protection under the Charter • Unclear, unsettled • Depends on the jurisdiction • Ripe for litigation
Mc. Kinney v. University of Guelph In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada in Mc. Kinney v. University of Guelph ruled that the Charter was not applicable to a university when it concerned their relationship with employees. Since then, the Supreme Court of Canada has not ruled as to how the Charter might apply to protect the free expression rights of students on campus
Pridgen v. University of Calgary “the university is not a Charter-free zone”
When you encounter censorship 1. Go up the authority chain to find out if other clubs were treated similarly 2. Do your due diligence 3. Don’t negotiate on essentials 4. Prepare for censorship ahead of time 5. Seek legal help
Resources www. jccf. ca www. splc. org www. thefire. org