On March 24, 2018 (as reported by Ottawa Citizen), a small group of protesters disrupted a public speaking event to be delivered by a controversial University of Ottawa Professor. Were this situation to be set at the professor’s University, it could be disregarded as one of the many disruptions of this sort taking place at University campuses throughout North America (see references below for samples). Disruptions at university events might be considered de rigueur and exciting in the clamour for ideological supremacy. Alternatively, one could take R.G. Collingwood’s view (from The New Leviathan, published in 1971) that ideological arguments at universities are essential because
One chief pursuit of the immature animal, human or other, is to prepare itself for the dangers of real life, while its elders are protecting it from them, by making believe to face them; and this is the greater part of education; so that the office of universities in a commonwealth is to provide an unfailing flow of insignificant speech….for speech is man’s weapon against the dangers of his own world, and insignificant speech is what he teaches his cubs as his fellow creatures teach theirs to bat without clawing and nip without biting…man’s world is infested by sphinxes, demon beings of mixed and monstrous nature which ask him riddles and eat him if he cannot answer them, compelling him to play a game of wits where the stake is his life and his only weapon his tongue (pg, 12)
The Justice Centre For Constitutional Freedom, a Canadian organization “founded in 2010 as a voice for freedom in Canada’s courtrooms, the JCCF’s mission is to defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through litigation and education”, provides a Campus Freedom Index for those concerned that freedom of expression at Canadian post-secondary institutions is far more deeply significant and troubled than suggested by attitudes nicely summarized by R.G. Collingwood in 1971.
There are many other organizations and websites which serve the interests of writers, journalists, academics and the many different brands of ideological activists who have something to say. There are links to some of those organizations on this site where those sites appear to offer educational opportunities oriented to freedom of expression.
This website (www.freedom-of-expression.ca) is primarily designed to provide education and information relating to freedom of expression from and within a Canadian context – indeed from an average Canadian citizen’s point of view. It was not designed to serve any ideologies or professions. It is also not designed to attack any particular “-ism” or “ist”, whether professional or enthusiast in nature.
This website is intended, as far as is reasonable, to investigate the general social value of the freedom of expression and where threats to this freedom may be observed. That is why the “Speaking Of” links include lower-profile issues such as individuals attempting to place their own surname on a vehicle licence plate or a retired dentist attempting to procure advertising on public advertising space. Freedom of Expression is not exclusively about academia, journalism, artists and politics – it is also about any Canadian’s rights to communicate freely.
The March 24th disruption is notable and troubling for having occurred at the Ottawa Public Library – not the distant, ivory towers of academia, but a setting oriented to engaged, mature communication of members of the public. This disruption was not aimed at competing academic elites – it was aimed to prevent members of the public from hearing an address.
The Ottawa event disruption should be understood as an unwelcome, ideology-driven violation of the public’s human right to public dialogue. When the cubs stop batting and nipping at each other on campus and bring the disruption, intimidation and violence to public spaces shared by families, seniors and others in the community, that is a matter for the average Canadian to take seriously.