To End Censorship in Academia – Academic Freedom Protected and Enshrined in Law
The Minister of Higher Education, Ms Danielle McCann, today tabled Bill 32 on academic freedom in the university environment in order to recognize, promote and protect academic freedom and thereby end censorship in academia. This bill responds to all of the recommendations set out by the Independent Scientific and Technical Commission on the recognition of academic freedom in the university environment, in addition to integrating certain opinions that it formulated.
Once passed, the bill would, among other things:
- define university academic freedom;
- define its beneficiaries;
- ensuring that universities have a council and a policy aimed at recognizing, promoting and protecting academic freedom and are accountable for its application;
- determine the elements that the institutions concerned must include in their policy, in particular awareness and information measures as well as educational tools and resources, including a consulting service.
By tabling this bill, the government recognizes university academic freedom as an essential condition for the fulfillment of the mission of university institutions. He also asserts that it is essential that these institutions provide quality education to members of their student community in an environment conducive to learning, discussion and debate.
It should be noted that the Commission was set up to follow up on one of the recommendations on academic freedom in the report L’Université québécoise du futur , and in the wake of several incidents calling this freedom into question. The mandate of the Commission was, in particular, to draft a proposal for government orientations on academic freedom in the university environment and to determine the best vehicle for ensuring its recognition.
“Today is a very important day for us and for academia. The question of academic freedom is fundamental. In recent years, several disturbing events have drawn our attention to this subject and one thing is clear: censorship has no place in our classrooms. In this bill, we have decided to act on all of the Commission’s recommendations. It is with great pride that I present this highly anticipated piece of legislation today. The principles of academic freedom must remain at the heart of the mission of the university network. This is what will enable students with strong critical thinking and sound judgment to graduate. » Danielle McCann , Minister of Higher Education
“The gesture we made today is very significant. I am proud to see the concrete results of our efforts. This bill, which has just been tabled in the House, is the result of rigorous consultation work. It reflects the concerns of academia. These concerns are not new, but they have been brought to the fore in recent years, through various events that have called into question academic freedom in our institutions. Respect for this freedom is essential for the health of our universities. » Émilie Foster, MNA for Charlevoix ‒ Côte-de-Beaupré and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Higher Education
If the law is passed, universities would have one year to develop their policy, adopt it and put it into effect.
The Commission held public hearings from August 24 to September 1, 2021, to gather the opinions of experts as well as those concerned with issues related to academic freedom. Twenty-three speakers were heard over a period of five days and forty-six briefs, testimonies and expert opinions were received to feed the drafting of the report. In addition, 1,079 faculty members responded to a questionnaire and 992 members of the student community participated in an online roundtable.