On Sept. 24 a report was published by the right-wing think tank Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms that grades freedom of speech on Canadian campuses. The report measures 45 Canadian public universities, including the University of Calgary. The U of C ranked poorly in respect to free speech.
The JCCF report graded universities and student unions on their policies and practices with grades ranging from A to F. The U of C was tied with seven other universities for having the overall second worst student union in Canada in respect to free speech. U of C administration also received an F grade for free speech practices.
“I suspect it’s because the administration has made it particularly difficult for the pro-life people to show their signs and get their message out there,” said U of C political science professor Barry Cooper, who was part of the advisory council for the JCCF report. “The argument that [administration] gave [about the pro-life displays] was transparently misleading — that it was a question of security.”
In the JCCF report, 23 out of the 45 campuses received at least one F grade. According to the report, 51 per cent of the 45 campuses surveyed have censored student expression. That 51 per cent included the U of C.
“[Administration] should let anybody who wants to make any kind of statement to make it,” Cooper said. “That’s not to say you should have a violent demonstration, but speech doesn’t fall into that category. Political correctness is probably the biggest form of self-censorship that we have. It’s not very healthy, particularly at a university.”
SU vice-president student life Ben Cannon said he did not agree with the findings of the report, adding that the SU makes every effort to be as inclusive to differing beliefs as possible.
“It’s disappointing to be scored so low, in terms of restricting speech,” Cannon said. “I personally believe [the SU] goes above and beyond to allow a great diversity of opinions on this campus.”
On average, campuses from Saskatchewan and New Brunswick received the highest grade. Both of these provinces did not receive an F grade at any of their institutions studied by the JCCF.
All of the campuses surveyed in Alberta, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador received at least one F grade.