Canadian Tory wants universities to ‘protect free speech or lose funding’

Conservative leadership candidate calls for federal research funding to be conditional on ‘free speech’

April 21, 2017
Protest

A candidate for the leadership of Canada’s Conservative Party has called for universities to “lose federal funding if they fail to protect freedom of speech”, according to reports.

Andrew Scheer discussed free speech on campus in an interview with the National Post.

“Campuses are no longer the bastions of free speech that they once were,” he said in reference to the “troubling trend” for protests around controversial lectures.

“There are a lot of people who come to campus who say things that are outrageous,” Mr Scheer said.

“And I vehemently disagree with them…Professors or guest speakers who say terrible things about everything from Christianity to capitalism.

“I just don’t go to them. It’s as simple as that. And it doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t keep me up at night. It doesn’t make me want to go and tip a car over.”

The National Post said that under one of Mr Scheer’s proposed policies “fostering and protecting free speech would become a criterion on public post-secondary institutions’ grant applications to federal agencies such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Canada Research Chairs”.

Mr Scheer discussed the case of Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto professor of psychology who has been at the centre of a national furore after he made two hour-long YouTube lectures criticising the institution’s policy on “political correctness” and objecting to government legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.

In response, the university issued a warning about speech or acts that “silence or demean individuals or groups”, and senior administrators sent Professor Peterson a letter asking him to stop making statements that could be considered discriminatory under provincial human rights legislation.

“People can disagree with him,” said Mr Scheer. “People can refute his points, and stand up for what they believe in. But what bothers me is this sense of shutting out any kind of dissent on certain issues. I believe that Canada is a mature enough country that we can have these debates.”

The new Conservative leader will be chosen on 27 May.

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

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