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Statement on freedom of speech

Principal Daniel Woolf comments on the Ontario government’s new freedom of speech policy in his role as chair of the Council of Ontario Universities.

On Thursday, Aug. 30, the Government of Ontario announced a new policy regarding freedom of speech. In his capacity as Chair of the Council of Ontario Universities, Principal Daniel Woolf issued this statement: 

Ontario universities share the Ontario government’s interest in protecting freedom of expression, and are committed to working with all stakeholders, including faculty, students, and the province, to provide opportunities for thoughtful debate and discussion on our campuses.

We welcome further discussion with the government on how freedom of expression may continue to be protected, and believe any framework must balance the right to free expression with universities’ duty to maintain a civil campus environment, along with physical safety and security for faculty, students, and staff.

For centuries, universities have encouraged the free flow of ideas on campus. Universities have always been places for open discussion and free inquiry.

This has not changed. Universities are committed to creating learning environments that promote free expression and provide opportunities for dialogue to take place with civility. 

Every day, on every university campus in the province, hundreds if not thousands of conversations and debates take place; facts and opinions are expressed that some participants may not like, or even find offensive.

Ontario universities have policies that affirm the right to freedom of expression for students, faculty and staff, and have mechanisms in place to resolve disputes. We will work with the government and other stakeholders to ensure that freedom and expression is alive and healthy.

– Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf, Queen's University and Chair of the Council of Ontario Universities

* In his role as Principal of Queen's, Dr. Woolf recently commented on the issue of freedom of speech and academic freedom in an opinion piece published by the Globe and Mail, as well as a piece for his Principal's Blog.