December 4, 2021
Students arrive at Conestoga College’s Doon campus in Kitchener, Ontario on Sept. 13. Photo by Phil Courtemanche, Spoke News

By Phillip Courtemanche, Spoke News

Ontario colleges and universities have been told by the provincial government that they must develop a free speech policy that would apply to students, faculty, staff, management and guests. The policy is required to meet the minimum standards outlined by the government which includes a definition of freedom of speech. The standard also states that speech that violates the law is not allowed. If colleges and universities fail to implement and/or follow the policies once they are implemented, it may result in reduced funding.

Some students at the Doon campus at Conestoga College were asked what they thought about the enforcement of such a policy and what free speech means to them.

“I think that anyone should have the right to free speech and to say what they think or feel,” said Julia Roth, who is in the practical nursing program at Conestoga College. Roth was asked if the enforcement of a policy would be good for the college. “Potentially, because people would get to voice their concerns, but it could also potentially cause conflict.” 

“[We should be able to] speak up and express our opinions as long as it’s not directly conflicting with someone’s personal beliefs,” said Michael Smith, who is in the AAIT (accounting, audit and information technology) program at Conestoga College. Smith was also asked what free speech meant to him. “The ability to express an opinion that might not be popular among the masses.”

“We can explain our thoughts…without fear,” said Arshdeep Singh, who is enrolled in the process quality engineering program at Conestoga College, when asked what free speech means to him. “That’s the real meaning of democracy.”

“Well to me, it’s just being able to talk about things [and] voice your opinions,” said Avery Corbett, who is also in the practical nursing program, when asked what free speech means to her. “You should be allowed to debate topics, even topics that people don’t generally bring up as long as it’s done in a respectful way where you’re not threatening somebody.”

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