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College free-speech policy is anything but: OPSEU’s Thomas

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is disappointed with the new free-speech policy that will be put into place at Ontario’s 24 colleges on January 1.

“This so-called free-speech policy is anything but,” Thomas said. “In fact, a better name would be ‘gag-order policy.’”

The group that represents the colleges announced the policy Monday on behalf of all 24 college presidents. Thomas says there is no doubt in his mind that the Ford government is pulling the strings behind the scenes.

“This is just the latest example of the Ford government’s trampling the democratic rights of the people of Ontario,” Thomas said.

RM Kennedy, OPSEU College Faculty Executive chair, noted that just one student from one student organization was consulted during the drafting of the policy, while not a single faculty member was given an opportunity for input.

“This fundamentally undemocratic policy was drafted by the employer to the government’s exact specifications. It’s not a free-speech directive; it’s an anti-protest edict that will have a chilling effect on the entire college system and beyond.

“The policy allows college administrators to designate where and when students and faculty and others may protest on campus. This is a wakeup call for anyone who cares about democracy.”

OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida said he was very concerned about the limits on the freedom of assembly at the heart of the labour movement.

“This policy is completely wrong-headed for so many reasons. If you put the brakes on protesting, then you’re trampling on the right to assemble. Doug Ford forced this policy on our colleges, and we know just how far he’s prepared to go to make sure he gets his own way.”

Thomas said Colleges Ontario should go back to the drawing-board, and the government should provide more time and more flexibility to arrive at a meaningful free-speech policy.

“This is Doug Ford being simplistic, heavy-headed and punitive – yet again.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; RM Kennedy, 416-346-8382