The Free Speech Club v. UBC

In November 2019, The Free Speech Club, a student group at University of British Columbia (UBC), organized an event entitled “Understanding ANTIFA Violence” featuring Andy Ngo at UBC’s Robson Square campus, to take place on January 29, 2020.

Antifa, short for “anti-fascist,” is a loosely organized coalition of left-wing activists and self-described communist anarchists who use direct action, including vandalism, physical violence, threats, cyber attacks, and blockades, often to shut down events or protest opinions they oppose. Antifa protestors typically dress in black and wear masks to hide their faces.

Andy Ngo is a well-known journalist who frequently reports on Antifa protests and violence. His work has made him a target of Antifa. In June 2019, Mr. Ngo was violently attacked and injured while documenting an Antifa protest in Portland, Oregon, requiring hospitalization. Andy Ngo, who is of Vietnamese heritage and openly gay, is currently editor at large for The Post Millennial, a Canadian news website.

The Free Speech Club and UBC entered into a contract on November 25, 2019 to hold the event, and the club paid the required booking deposit. The UBC Executive unilaterally cancelled the event in December 2019, stating in an email shortly before Christmas that this was necessary due to concerns “about the safety and security of our campus community”. No specific concerns were stated.  If UBC had safety concerns, it did not communicate any specific concerns to The Free Speech Club, or make efforts to address such concerns.

On December 31, 2019, the Justice Centre issued a demand letter to the President of the University of British Columbia (“UBC”), and warned of legal action if the event was not reinstated.

UBC Counsel Hubert Lai responded January 8, 2020 that UBC will not be reinstating the Andy Ngo event, stating “Mr. Ngo has been the target of violence in the past” and claims that “the risk to persons and property was too high.”

UBC’s decision contradicts its own policies and statements. For example, UBC states that universities “play a central role in providing a forum where ideas can be expressed, debated, and challenged, and where participants can gain insight and greater mutual nderstanding.

“UBC’s current Provost and Vice President, Academic, has stated: UBC must be an open forum where members of the university have the freedom ‘to engage in full and unrestricted consideration of any opinion’.”

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is proceeding with legal action against the University of British Columbia for its cancellation of the planned Andy Ngo event on the topic of Antifa violence.

 

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