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Clancy: Bill 166 could limit academic freedom

April 18, 2024

QUEEN'S PARK — Ontario Greens Deputy Leader and MPP for Kitchener Centre Aislinn Clancy released the following statement in response to stakeholder concerns shared during public hearings on Bill 166, the Strengthening Accountability and Student Support Act.

“As Bill 166 makes its way through committee, I have grown increasingly concerned about sections in the bill that give the Minister of Colleges and Universities powers that could threaten our postsecondary institutions’ right to freedom from political interference.

During public hearings, stakeholders have voiced concerns not only about a lack of adequate consultation prior to the bill’s tabling, but also that such ministerial powers could be used to penalize students who speak out about the war in Gaza, share pro-Palestinian sentiments or critique the State of Israel’s violence toward Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

I am concerned that the powers laid out in this bill could give the Minister of Colleges and Universities the power to limit the sharing of these views and silence pro-Palestinian advocacy.

My heart goes out to the many students whose feelings of safety and ability to focus on their studies are being compromised by increased acts of anti-Palestinian, Islamophobic and antisemitic hate on postsecondary campuses.

I will be putting forward amendments to this bill to ensure that post-secondary students are protected from all forms of hate, including antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism, without infringing on their Charter right to free speech.

I also encourage the government to support anti-racism initiatives by properly funding our colleges and universities, rather than increasing reporting requirements without additional financial supports. This would allow our colleges and universities to invest in appropriate training and resources that promote safe and inclusive learning environments for all.”