Universities, the Charter, Doug Ford, and Campus Free Speech


  • James L. Turk* Ryerson University




On a warm summer day at the end of August 2018, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s office issued a press release announcing, “Ontario’s Government for the People is delivering on its promise to uphold free speech on every Ontario publicly-funded university and college campus.”1 An accompanying “Backgrounder” spelled out the details.2 Although this policy seems progressive on its face, it is actually anything but. That said, it may have the unintended but beneficial effect of bringing Ontario universities under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.3 More about that later. First, the problems.


* Distinguished Visiting Scholar and Director, Centre for Free Expression. Faculty of Communications & Design, Ryerson University.
1 Office of the Premier, News Release: “Ontario Protects Free Speech on Campuses: Mandates Universities and Colleges to Introduce Free Speech Policy by January 1, 2019” (30 August 2018), online: Government of Ontario <news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2018/08/ontario-protects-free-speech-on-campuses.html> [Office of the Premier, “Ontario Protects”].
2 See Office of the Premier, Backgrounder “Upholding Free Speech on Ontario’s University and College Campuses” (30 August 2018), online: Government of Ontario <news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2018/08/upholdingfree-speech-on-ontarios-university-and-college-campuses.html> [Office of the Premier, “Upholding Free Speech”].