Doug Ford’s freedom of speech policy is hypocritical

Doug Ford’s attempt to protect freedom of speech is so hypocritical, it could easily be mistaken for a (very bad) joke.

Amidst protests at Canadian colleges and universities, Ford ran on a platform that promised he would tie freedom of speech policy into post-secondary funding.

Ford is looking to protect freedom of speech by mandating schools and defining what is and isn’t acceptable. This is the opposite of what freedom of speech is supposed to be and it’s blatantly wrong and offensive.

One of the most intense protests took place at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo earlier this year. The Globe and Mail reported students actively protested against guest speaker Faith Goldy, a white nationalist and supremacist known for appearing on neo-Nazi podcasts.

Students protested on school grounds before pulling the plug on Goldy’s discussion by triggering the fire alarm.

Post-secondary schools will now be forced to create a freedom of speech policy which all students, staff and guests have to obey. Failure to obey policy may result in grant cuts, disciplinary action, expulsion and for faculty – the possible loss of their careers.

Yes, our Premier wants to hold school funding hostage as he hangs the threat of reprimand over the heads of students and faculty. Ford says he is simply protecting our democratic right to express ourselves, even if it means being exposed to something offensive.

By doing so, he is saying free speech can only be determined by people within positions of power and it’s absolutely undemocratic.

Yet, he denies Canadian children the right to inclusive sexual education, touching on important topics like sexuality and gender identity. Why? Because it’s controversial. So controversial, parents can report teachers violating the 1998 sex-ed curriculum to and, according to the Huffington Post.

This man says he cares about freedom of speech for Canadians and it is absolute lunacy. If Ford cares so much about democracy, why is he making it impossible for teachers to disagree with an outdated curriculum that doesn’t include the concerns of every Canadian?

The change in free speech policy isn’t going to eliminate protests against controversial speakers. The first section of the Charter protects the rights for peaceful assembly as long as students can protest without radical action. This makes Ford’s efforts not only pointless but clear in their intention to silence a non-conservative perspective.

If Ford’s heart wasn’t in the wrong place, he could have had a great, well-rounded policy to protect the rights of everyone within post-secondary schools.

According to Centennial College’s website, it has a policy around disruptive student behaviour in the classroom and other learning environments policy. Durham has a similar policy. These policies hold students responsible for inappropriate behaviour while still protecting their rights as people, without taking away their freedom of expression.

There is nothing wrong with having a clear, defined code of conduct when it comes to appropriate behaviour when expressing an opinion: one which allows everyone to have a voice and engage in open debate, even if the subject matter challenges what they believe in respectfully.

By trying to control freedom of speech with the threat of punishment, the premier is hardly different than the protestors who sparked the controversy in the first place.

Where they are different is in the balance of power.

Students have the power to protest against things they don’t agree with. Premier Doug Ford has the power to effectively mandate what is or isn’t free speech and punish anyone who opposes him.

Section One of the Charter states laws surrounding free speech can be limited so long as it coincides with a free, democratic society. However, what is democratic about placing a cap on freedom of speech when laws already exist to protect them?

If this is what Ford sees as defending democracy, Canadians should fear what the future holds under his leadership: a future where freedom of speech only exists in a tiny echo-chamber of predetermined notions of what’s acceptable and where democracy is only a buzzword politicians use to justify their malpractices.

The hypocrisy needs to stop.

Canadians need to exercise their freedom of speech and call out Doug Ford before he changes the very fabric of what makes this country so beautiful: our diversity, our democracy, our right to choose, express ourselves and our right to freedom.