Western University president urged to return security fee for Peterson lecture

Friday, March 17, 2017

LONDON, ON: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca) has written to Western University President & Vice-Chancellor Amit Chakma, urging him to refund more than $1,000 charged to a student group for hosting an event that features University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson.Western University has imposed more than $1,000 in “security fees” on a Western student club, Young Canadians in Action (YCIA), for hosting an event that features University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson.  Dr. Peterson will speak on campus Saturday, March 18, on a range of issues including free speech at universities.

The tactic of assigning security fees to university student groups seeking to host a controversial speaker or discussion is becoming increasingly popular—and effective—at pricing free speech out of existence for many students with unpopular views. At the University of Alberta, a student pro-life club was charged $17,500 in security fees in order to erect a stationary display on campus for a day or two. These fees are the equivalent of more than twice the price of undergraduate tuition at the U of A.  The event was cancelled.  In 2014, a men’s rights awareness group was charged $1,600 in security fees to host a discussion at Ryerson University. Ryerson, in the face of public backlash, later agreed to absorb the fees.

“It’s grossly unfair to punish people who seek only to speak and to listen to a speaker, by making them pay for the potential criminal conduct of those who do not respect free expression,” stated lawyer John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre.

In its letter, the Justice Centre urges Dr. Chakma to uphold the rule of law, and Western University’s own policies in support of free expression, by taking sole responsibility for providing a secure environment:

…why should YCIA or its members be penalized for the potential misconduct of other people? Why should these tuition-paying students, who have a legal right to express their views peacefully on campus, have to pay money on account of the potential misbehaviour of others, in order for YCIA’s members to exercise their free expression rights on a university campus?

“Subjecting the expression of unpopular opinion on campus to “security fees” that are not imposed on students wishing to express popular opinions is discriminatory, and contrary to the University’s mission to serve as a forum for the debate of ideas,” stated Carpay.