Conservative Leadership Candidate Wants Universities To Protect Free Speech

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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Former Canadian House of Commons Speaker and Conservative leadership candidate Andrew Scheer wants the federal government to stop funding universities that won’t protect free speech.

Under Scheer’s proposed policy, announced Wednesday, public colleges and universities would be required to provide a written commitment to advancing and protecting free speech when applying for grant applications from federally-funded organizations.

He says his objective is not more bureaucracy.

“I would instruct the minister to work with these bodies and come up with an easy way to test for it. I imagine in the early days it would be as simple as responding to complaints,” Scheer told the National Post.

Academic institutions would be required to to demonstrate their resolve to deal effectively with forces opposed to free speech on campus, whether that means cutting off funding to student unions or providing adequate security.

“I do believe the university does have a responsibility to step in and prevent small rabble-rousing groups from having an impact,” said Scheer.

“Campuses are no longer the bastions of free speech that they once were,” says Scheer. Calling it a “troubling trend,” he says political correctness shuts down controversial events, withdraws invitations to speakers and bans activities or clubs.

Scheer cites recent examples that include a pro-life group being silenced at Wilfrid Laurier University; a McGill University campus newspaper that shuts out any articles with a positive portrayal of Israel and the ongoing student protests that rock academia every time University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson talks about his opposition to gender-neutral speech.

“There are a lot of people who come to campus who say things that are outrageous. And I vehemently disagree with them. That I find offensive. Professors or guest speakers who say terrible things about everything from Christianity to capitalism,” Scheer said.

“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.”

Peterson has galvanized public opinion with his criticism of gender neutral pronouns that he says justify the illusion of people pretending to be something other than male or female. The professor, who for the first time this month was denied a research grant,  is also an opponent of the Liberal government’s Bill C-16, a so-called gender discrimination bill that many critics, Sheer among them, say will deal another blow to free speech in Canada.

The bill is reaching the final stages of Parliamentary approval and will ambiguously ban “discrimination” on the basis of gender identity or orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the criminal code.

Scheer voted against C-16 and says Peterson’s right to free speech is just one reason to fight political correctness on campus.

“People can disagree with him. 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,” Scheer said.

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