January 16, 2019

Day of Action for Democracy on Campus is just the beginning

Banner drop on Nov. 29th in Windsor
By Peter Miller, coordinator of the YCL-LJC in Ontario and Chair of the Student Commission

YCL Ontario students and allies organized a Day of Action for Democracy on Campus on November 29th to protest against the implementation of Doug Ford's "free speech" directive on Ontario college and university campuses. We came together in opposition to this directive, which instead of encouraging free speech, has the goal to stifle it for marginalized and activist groups while emboldening the hate speech of far-right and fascist groups trying to increase their presence amongst youth.

Ford's directive attacks democracy on campus by forcing campuses which already follow academic freedom to include a free speech policy. Most outrageously, his policy attacks democracy by threatening student activists with discipline for organizing protests against hate groups speaking on campus.

The YCL gathered petition signatures against the directive and distributed flyers at a table at the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto. We also had banner drops and distributed flyers at the University of Guelph and the University of Windsor. At Western (London), the YCL Ontario worked with the Teacher Assistant’s Union (PSAC 610) to rally against the Ford directive.

At Ryerson University, in Toronto, the student union also organised a rally last fall which forced the Board of Governers to postpone the official adoption of their by-laws defending ‘free speech’ (for corporates, of course).

Despite many efforts, we did not reach a level of mobilization to bring enough pressure to stop campuses from adopting a "free speech policy." For instance, Ontario Colleges, recently announced they adopted their policy before the January 1st deadline. I spoke at the University of Windsor Board of Governors meeting in a video you can see here, but this did not stop the BoG from implementing a policy on their campus before the January 1st deadline as well. Political careerists in the senior administrations of colleges and universities and their corporate schmoozers on Board of Directors and Governors on campuses throughout Ontario will only go against the government if there is enough pressure. Many used the excuse that Ford threatened to reduce funding for universities that do not comply with his directive to push through draconian policies which threaten to discipline student activists for taking part in our democratic right to protest.
Toronto YCL-LJC members picketing at UofT

Ford hopes he can stifle the work of students to organize against far-right and hateful groups, but we will show him differently. The passing of this directive has only made us more steadfast in petitioning, speaking out, and rallying against far-right, hate, and bigoted groups from having a presence on campus. Universities and Colleges gotta have standards, damnit.

By mobilizing for democracy on campus, we also have built our network of allies to call for free education. The tuition fee framework, which already allows tuition fees to increase well above inflation, and results in the highest tuition fees in Canada being in Ontario, are set to be re-set in the Spring. There is no doubt the Ford Government threatens to deregulate tuition fees this spring, cut inadequate student grants, and increase the ties of corporations to our Post-Secondary Institutions. By building the movement for free education, as students, we can show that we fight in the interests of working-class students and students from marginalized communities, unlike the far-right and its ilk, who wish to sow divisions, encourage scapegoats, and demobilize left-wing movements.

Students must mobilize against Ford in the defence of genuine democracy, students rights and demands. We can’t let him get away without a broad and massive resistance!

Rally at Western University in London with the YCL-LJC and members of PSAC 610

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