All universities and colleges in the province are expected to have implemented a free-speech policy this year.
The Ontario PC government made this a requirement after the Premier said students complained their voices are being censored on campus.
The Conservative policy states that students should not be shielded from ideas they disagree with and that there needs to be open discussion.
The Ontario government tells us the policy will not only protect free speech, but ensure that hate speech, discrimination and other illegal forms of speech are not allowed on campus, and that it all comes down to respect.
The McMaster Student Union calls it an unnecessary change saying their “concern is that this policy will be wielded as a tool to repress marginalized voices of constructive dissent and/or opposition to ideas, speakers, or groups on university campuses.”
Ontario’s 24 colleges approved a new free speech policy. In a statement, College Ontario says ideas and viewpoints, even controversial ones can be discussed freely and debated openly without fear of reprisal, but speech that constitutes as harassment, a threat or hate speech is not allowed.
According to the criminal code, hate speech involves intimidation, harassment, or threats against a person or group based on colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sexual orientation, gender or physical and mental disabilities.
The government says any institutions that fail to comply with a free-speech policy could face a cut in funding. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities says they will be following up with schools throughout the month to make sure they are meeting the requirements.