With­hold funding if univer­si­ties don’t pro­tect free speech: Scheer

The Observer (Sarnia) - - NATIONAL NEWS - MARIE-DANIELLE SMITH md­smith@post­media.com Twit­ter: mariedanielles

OT­TAWA — Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship can­di­date Andrew Scheer says univer­si­ties should lose fed­eral funding if they fail to pro­tect free­dom of speech on cam­pus.

A “trou­bling trend” has sur­faced where small groups on cam­pus can shut down events, pre­vent guest speak­ers from giv­ing lec­tures and ban activities or clubs they dis­agree with, Scheer said in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day. “Cam­puses are no longer the bas­tions of free speech that they once were.”

Re­cent ex­am­ples in­clude a pro-life group hav­ing its event can­celled at Wil­frid Lau­rier Uni­ver­sity; a stu­dent news­pa­per at McGill re­fus­ing to print pro-Is­rael ar­ti­cles; and protest sur­round­ing Uni­ver­sity of Toronto pro­fes­sor Jor­dan Peter­son for his views on gen­der pro­nouns.

“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 . ...

“I just don’t go to them. It’s as sim­ple as that.”

Peter­son has struck a public nerve with his re­fusal to adopt peo­ple’s pre­ferred gen­der pro­nouns and con­cerns around the ef­fect of Bill C-16, the Lib­er­als’ gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion bill, on free­dom of speech.

The bill, which is cur­rently mak­ing its way through the Se­nate, would add gen­der iden­tity and gen­der ori­en­ta­tion to the Cana­dian Hu­man Rights Act, thus mak­ing it il­le­gal to dis­crim­i­nate against some­one on those bases.

It would also add these terms to a list, in the Crim­i­nal Code, of iden­ti­fi­able so­cial groups that may mo­ti­vate hate crime or “ad­vo­cat­ing geno­cide.” (The list al­ready in­cludes sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, sex and other char­ac­ter­is­tics — eth­nic­ity, lan­guage, dis­abil­ity, etc.)

Ca­cophonous stu­dent protests have sur­rounded Peter­son since he made com­ments last fall dis­miss­ing non-bi­nary gen­der iden­ti­ties.

The pro­fes­sor re­ceived warn­ings from the uni­ver­sity and pub­licly won­dered whether a pro­posal for fed­eral grant money had been re­jected be­cause of the con­tro­versy.

Scheer, who op­poses C-16, held up Peter­son’s right to ar­tic­u­late his point of view as an ex­am­ple of why more in­cen­tives are needed to coun­ter­act 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,” he said.

Un­der Scheer’s pro­posed pol­icy, fos­ter­ing and pro­tect­ing free speech would be­come a cri­te­rion on public post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions’ grant ap­pli­ca­tions to such fed­eral agen­cies as the Nat­u­ral Sci­ences and En­gi­neer­ing Re­search Coun­cil, the So­cial Sci­ences and Hu­man­i­ties Re­search Coun­cil, the Cana­dian In­sti­tutes of Health Re­search and Canada Re­search Chairs.

The goal isn’t to cre­ate an ex­tra layer of bu­reau­cracy, Scheer promised. “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 will face fel­low fron­trun­ners in­clud­ing Kevin O’Leary, Maxime Bernier and Kel­lie Leitch at a fi­nal lead­er­ship de­bate in Toronto next week. A new Con­ser­va­tive party leader will be cho­sen May 27.

POST­MEDIA FILES

Can­di­date Andrew Scheer speaks dur­ing the Con­ser­va­tive Party of Canada lead­er­ship de­bate in Fe­bru­ary. Scheer says univer­si­ties should lose fed­eral funding if they fail to pro­tect free­dom of speech on cam­pus.

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