Ottawa

Carleton University's new free speech policy under fire

A group of students are giving Carleton University's new free speech policy a failing grade, saying it doesn't go far enough to protect freedom of expression.

Ford government demands post-secondary schools launch free speech policy in 2019

Carleton University is facing criticism for its new free speech policy, which was launched after the provincial government demanded that all colleges and universities in Ontario come up with free speech policies by Jan. 1, 2019. (Danny Globerman/CBC)

A group of students are giving Carleton University's new free speech policy a failing grade, saying it doesn't go far enough to protect freedom of expression.

The university's new policy was launched in response to the provincial government's demands that all post-secondary institutions update their free speech policies by Jan. 1 or face funding cuts. 

"The final policy misses the mark when it comes to putting forward a solid and forcible commitment to defending free speech," Kieran Moloney, president of the Carleton Campus Conservatives, told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. 

Specifically, the policy is facing criticism for lacking enforcement and complaint mechanisms, and for a line that states the university has "the right to reasonably regulate the use of facilities and the time, place and manner of speech."

That type of language, Moloney said, gives the university "de-facto power" to ban speech or expression at will, without the need to provide a rationale.

Stifling free speech 

The university, meanwhile, said it has always been committed to protecting free speech on campus and will continue to do so. It said that to "reasonably regulate" only refers to accommodating requests related to free speech with regards to time and space.

"We have always behaved in good faith in this area. Even before this policy, we had multiple policies that existed that regulated all these issues," Betina Appel Kuzmarov, the clerk of the university's senate, told Ottawa Morning.

Betina Appel Kuzmarov, clerk of Carleton University's senate, says the university is committed to protecting free speech for all students and faculty members. (Miriam Katawazi/CBC)

"It's one of those things I can point to in my experiences, [there are] very few times where there has been real tension."

But Moloney said his speech has been stifled on campus. Last year, during a discussion group, he said he was told his views on a federal transgender rights law were "offensive" and that the debate was "quickly shut down." 

He said he's concerned the policy doesn't give students like himself any tools to complain.

The Progressive Conservative government has said it will monitor compliance starting in September 2019 and schools that are not complying could face cuts.

Yesterday was the deadline for Ontario colleges and universities to bring in new free speech policies or face funding cuts. 12:43