Middlesex College

Western University's Middlesex College, February 26, 2018.

The provincial government mandated universities and colleges create a free speech policy by Jan. 1, 2019 in a statement released on Aug. 30.

Universities that don't comply risk cuts to educational funding. 

The release, titled "Ontario Protects Free Speech on Campus," emphasized that the new policies must protect free speech while preventing hate speech. After January, institutions will have to consult with the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario annually on their adherence, beginning in September of that year.

The announcement fulfilled a campaign promise by Premier Doug Ford that he would connect a university's funding to its free speech practices.

"Colleges and universities should be places where students exchange different ideas and opinions in open and respectful debate," Ford said in a statement.

Another release elaborated on some specific requirements for the new policies.

The policies must meet standards based on the University of Chicago's Statement on Principles of Free Expression: for instance, "the university/college should not attempt to shield students from ideas or opinions that they disagree with or find offensive."

Universities must also hold their official student groups to their new policy. But students who violate the policy will only be subject to the university's existing codes of conduct.

It is unclear to what extent, if any, Western University will have to amend or redo existing policies related to free speech, such as their Rights and Responsibilities of Academic Freedom policy.

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Martin is the Senior News Editor at the Gazette. You can contact him at martin.allen@westerngazette.ca, or @mtrallen on Twitter.

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