Although I am out of town on business I was advised of a situation that took place on April 2, where a display erected by a Queen’s student group was removed from the JDUC by Campus Security. The display, titled “Queen’s Free Speech Wall,” included racial slurs and hate speech that, quite simply, have no place on our campus.
Freedom of speech in Canada is protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a fundamental freedom. The very nature of the subject will usually stir controversy as freedom of speech is protected, but it is not absolute. I am a proponent of the right to free speech, particularly in an academic environment. Having said that I believe that all members of our community have a right to feel safe and respected while on our campus. Demeaning each other based on race, religion or any other affiliation will not be tolerated. I believe that our students, faculty and staff have the right to be a part of this community without fear, discrimination or harassment of any kind.
We have a duty to foster a safe and inclusive environment, one in which ideas can be expressed and challenged in a meaningful and respectful way.
I understand the group has been permitted to erect a new display. I trust this one will celebrate freedom of speech without infringing on the rights of others and, more importantly, hurting or excluding members of our community.