Universities in Ontario must establish free speech policies or face funding cuts, the new provincial government has warned.
Delivering on a promise made during its election campaign, the centre-right Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario said that institutions would have until 1 January 2019 to develop, implement and comply with a free speech policy that meets a minimum government standard.
It said that the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario would monitor compliance from September 2019, adding that universities that do not comply “may be subject to a reduction in operating grant funding”.
Students whose actions are “contrary to the free speech policy are subject to existing campus student discipline measures”, added the government, which came into power at the end of June.
The statement said that the policy would not only protect free speech, but ensure that hate speech, discrimination and other illegal forms of speech are not allowed on campus.
Some academics had previously claimed that the party’s bid to tie university funding to free speech was likely “just for show”.
Doug Ford, the provincial premier, said that “colleges and universities should be places where students exchange different ideas and opinions in open and respectful debate”.
“Our government made a commitment to the people of Ontario to protect free speech on campuses. Promise made, promise kept,” he added.