Today the student group York Students for Liberty will erect a free speech wall between Ross and Vari Hall, York University. The wall will stand from 12:00pm Monday until 2:00pm on Tuesday, March 19. The York Free Speech Wall is part of a campaign to raise awareness about free expression rights in Canada and is sponsored by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
Over the course of the day members of York Students for Liberty will invite students, faculty and community members to express their thoughts and opinions on the wall, as an exercise of their free expression rights. They will hand out information about the state of free speech at Canadian public universities, measured in the Justice Centre’s 2012 Campus Freedom Index. The Index is the first report in Canada to measure and rank the state of free speech at Canadian public universities. Assigning letter grades based on the degree to which universities and student unions uphold students’ free speech rights, only three out of 35 universities studied earned ‘A’s while 28 earned ‘F’s.
The 2012 Index reports that free speech at York University is under threat. The University and Federation of Students both earn a ‘D’ with respect to their written policies, and an ‘F’ for actions taken to censor speech.
The York Free Speech Wall is part of a national campaign sponsored by the Justice Centre to build free speech walls at campuses across the country. The Justice Centre launched the campaign at Carleton University where the Carleton Students for Liberty built a free speech wall in January. Within 24 hours of the wall being built at a public location on campus, a seventh-year Carleton student vandalized and removed the wall because he did not agree with some of the viewpoints being expressed.
“The destruction of the Carleton free speech wall brought national attention to the abysmal state of free speech at Canadian universities” says Justice Centre President John Carpay. “At a university of all places, students should be free to express their viewpoints and to debate controversial ideas without fear of being shut down.”
Once free speech walls have been built at campuses across the country, the Justice Centre will bring the walls together to create the Great Canadian Free Speech Wall—a monument testifying the importance of free speech at Canadian universities. Concerned citizens and supporters can make a donation to support the build at the crowd-funding site Bluecrowd.ca.
The Justice Centre hopes that the free speech wall will remind students, administrators and faculty at York that free speech is a fundamental value in higher education.