National Campus Life Network > Blog > NCLN Blog > We Have a Charter. Let’s Take It Seriously.

We Have a Charter. Let’s Take It Seriously.

By Josh MacMillan

At NCLN, we take free speech seriously. Throughout our 20 years of activism and service on campuses, we have seen the rights to free speech of all students trampled on across Canada.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms expresses that “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association.” [emphasis added]

Too often, our freedom of peaceful assembly is violated by those who believe they have the freedoms of violent and destructive assembly. Just look at cases at Brock University, the University of Waterloo, Wilfred Laurier University, University of Victoria, and many others where authorities and administration, whose duties are to protect our rights, are reluctant to take action or do nothing simply because our ideas are considered controversial and essentially we’re ‘asking for it.’ Furthermore, the universities and colleges hide behind the excuse that school property is private and therefore they get to make the rules, despite millions of dollars of OUR TAX DOLLARS being spent to maintain these institutions.

In the 1960’s, students fought for their right to free speech against restrictive policies at University of California, Berkeley. In 1964, Joan Baez, a prominent figure and folk singer in the 60’s counter-culture, joined the protest they staged there. Recently, she has spoken out against this current trend of censorship:

“Let the Ann Coulters of the world have their say. Trying to stop Ann Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking or any group from marching will not stop the advance of fascism, but rather might strengthen it… Let the opposition speak, let them march, let us speak and let us march. Violence usually brings the opposite of the desired goal.”

A lot of people, especially on campus, don’t seem to understand that. They call pro-lifers perpetrators, so they have the right to do whatever they wish to them and ignore basic human rights. A colleague of mine had a recent experience where a student said aloud just before attacking a pro-life display:

“Perfect, there is no security today…”

Frankly, the ideas of those who do not take free speech seriously make me uncomfortable. I have limits to my rights and I respect them. My rights end where someone else’s body begins. I have no right to be violent, and will not take violent action to hurt someone or destroy someone else’s property because it runs contrary to human rights and the principles laid down in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We have a right not to be treated like this. When someone tramples on your rights, record the perpetrators with your cellphone, spread the word, and demand protection from school administration, authorities, and our government. We join students from a number of American colleges in making a statement on free speech (the text has been copied below).

We refuse to be silent. This is OUR country. This is OUR Charter. Let’s own it and build a world where free speech is protected universally.

NCLN is committed to helping pro-life students fight back on their campuses. Should you face censorship on your campus during your activism and are a Canadian student, NCLN will (free of charge) guide, advise, and give you the skills you need to protect your rights on campus. Contact us here at: info@ncln.ca

The below statement has been made by a number of students from the U.S. concerned about erosion of free speech:

Support for free expression is a nonpartisan value that must be protected and promoted. We invite any and all interested individuals to sign this Statement of Principles affirming the importance of free expression on campuses across the country. Please share this with other members of your community.

Why We’re Here and Who We Are:

The Free Speech Movement began as an entirely student-led initiative. However, free speech has been increasingly undermined by attempts of students and administrators alike to silence those with whom they disagree. We seek to reclaim that original tradition with this student-created Statement of Principles.

We, the undersigned, stand united in our shared conviction that free expression is critical to our society, in spite of our differing backgrounds, perspectives and ideologies.

What We Believe:

A central purpose of education is to teach students to challenge themselves and engage with opposing perspectives. Our ability to listen to, wrestle with and ultimately decide between contending viewpoints fosters mutual understanding as well as personal and societal growth. The active defense of free and open discourse is crucial for our society to continue to thrive as a democracy premised on the open debate of ideas.

The only way to achieve this is by cultivating a culture where all are free to communicate without fear of censorship or intimidation. While some speech may be objectionable and even deeply offensive, constitutionally protected speech ought to be held and enforced as the standard and must not be infringed upon. As Justice Louis Brandeis observed exactly 90 years ago, “those who won our independence believed … that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies,” and that “the fitting remedy for evil counsels” is not disruption, violence or suppression, “but good ones.”

What You Can Do:
Our vision is to foster a nationwide community of students, faculty, staff, alumni and other friends who support free expression.
If you share our passion for free speech, viewpoint diversity and open discourse, please sign on to this Statement of Principles and encourage your community to do the same.

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