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Aug. 30, 2018

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Wilfrid Laurier University values the importance placed on free speech by the Ontario government.

Over the past year, Laurier has taken concrete steps that align with the direction outlined by the province on Aug. 30. Chief among these is a sector-leading Statement on Freedom of Expression that was developed by a Laurier task force that included broad representation from across the university and which involved extensive research and consultation. 

“Laurier has shown a deep commitment to free speech by investing considerable time and resources to fully research best practices and to consult with a broad spectrum of voices on this important issue,” said Robert Gordon, Laurier’s vice-president academic and provost, and the chair of the university’s Freedom of Expression Task Force. “We would be happy to share our learnings with the Ontario government and other universities as we all work toward improving our understanding of free speech and the best ways to protect and foster it on university campuses.”

In its statement, the Ontario government said colleges and universities will be required to develop policies that “not only protect free speech but ensure that hate speech, discrimination and other illegal forms of speech are not allowed on campus.” Laurier’s Statement on Freedom of Expression addresses these issues, noting that “free expression is never without limits” and that legislated restrictions placed on illegal forms of expression “apply to speech on campus in the same way as they apply elsewhere.”

Laurier’s Statement on Freedom of Expression takes a balanced approach that unequivocally embraces the principles of free speech while acknowledging the need to ensure that all individuals, including the marginalized, are given the opportunity to engage meaningfully in free expression, enquiry and learning.

Laurier has received numerous requests from other post-secondary institutions about the research, consultation and development process that the university followed in creating its Statement on Freedom of Expression. The statement was approved by members of the university’s task force, the university Senate and the Board of Governors earlier this year.

In addition to creating a Statement on Freedom of Expression, Laurier has taken steps to improve training, processes and procedures related to the practical implementation of free speech in the university setting.

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