Being exposed to a diverse range of opinions and perspectives, and being able to engage in the free and open exchange of ideas and information, is fundamental to the educational and research mission of the University. It is only through considering, questioning, and discussing ideas that we are able to create new knowledge, advance human understanding, and promote societal change and development.

Yes. Canadian laws – including the Criminal Code of Canada and the Ontario Human Rights Code set legal boundaries on speech. Various statutes of Canada and Ontario, as well as the common law, place limitations on some forms of speech.

McMaster also has policies in place which reflect these laws, and reiterate our commitment to fostering a respectful and inclusive organizational culture in which all members of the University community work, study, and live free of discrimination and harassment. The University’s Policy on Discrimination and Harassment: Prevention & Response states that:

The University upholds a fundamental commitment to freedom of expression and association for all its members and to academic freedom for faculty. In exercising those freedoms, all its members are required to respect the rights and freedoms of others, including the right to freedom from Discrimination and Harassment.

This policy applies to all events held on our campus and those that occur on non-University premises where there is a clear nexus to the working or learning environment at the University. The policy expressly prohibits any discriminatory or harassing action and/or conduct, verbal or non-verbal, directed at or about one or more individuals or groups, that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment, or interferes with academic or work performance, in a manner that exceeds the bounds of freedom of expression and academic freedom.

Within the framework of the University’s policies and processes, members of the McMaster community are free, and encouraged, to organize and promote events, invite speakers and hold meetings, as well as to express their dissent or disagreement with the opinions or views espoused at such events.

Given the fundamental importance of freedom of expression to the mission of the University, the institutional goal is to enable planned events to proceed wherever reasonably possible. The cancellation, suspension, or postponement of events are not desirable outcomes and such measures should be taken only in extreme cases, such as where there are serious concerns for community safety that the University is not confident of being able to mitigate.

As an institution of higher learning, the University is committed to freedom of expression and association for all its members, and to promoting and supporting the consideration, discussion and questioning of ideas, even if they are unpopular or controversial. Censorship is incompatible with the University’s mission of education, research and discovery. This does not mean that McMaster tolerates hate speech; the University is unequivocal in its condemnation of discrimination, harassment, violence and hate.
No. The fact that an event is held, or a speaker is invited to campus by internal or external members of our community, does not mean that the University administration sponsors or endorses such events. Many events on our campuses are hosted by internal or external groups having first arranged space rental or booking with the relevant facility in the prescribed way.

Although our faculty, students, staff and alumni will hold a range of opinions about social, scientific, political and other issues, the University itself does not typically take a position on such issues. The goal of the University administration is to support the University community in advancing our research and educational mission, and to foster open enquiry in its many forms.

As mentioned above, the University recognizes the imbalances in power that exist within our community and the disproportionate impact such imbalances have upon groups and individuals that have faced – and continue to face – discrimination and marginalization. The University’s guidance for event organizers document includes a requirement to consider the potential impact on groups who may be affected by a particular event, and any response or supports that might be needed. The University’s Equity and Inclusion Office works offers confidential support to marginalized groups and advice to any member of our community who may be experiencing harassment or discrimination. The Associate Vice-President (Equity and Inclusion) will assist in reviewing the effectiveness of the guidance document and responding to concerns on an ongoing basis.

Any individual who is concerned that conduct at an event violates or appears to violate laws, University policies or codes of conduct, is encouraged to notify the relevant University office (which may include the Equity and Inclusion Office, Student Support and Case Management, Employee/Labour Relations, Faculty of Health Sciences Professionalism Office, Security Services) so that the relevant conduct can be investigated and addressed in accordance with the University’s policies and protocols.

Similarly, any individual or group who is in need of support or assistance before or after an event is encouraged to contact one of the offices listed above or any of the other supports and resources available to members of the McMaster community (which may include the Student Wellness Centre, Ombuds Office, Chaplaincy Centre and McMaster Students Union, or other supports and services as appropriate).

Yes. Members of the University community are free to organize events, rallies or meetings to publicize or protest issues. Protest is a form of free expression and the University is guided by a commitment to ensure that all our members have the chance to express their views and be heard. Peaceful protest has been a force for progressive change on University campuses, and elsewhere, for generations, and the ability to challenge or question views or ideas is fundamental to our mission.

As an academic institution, McMaster has an obligation to ensure that the regular academic and administrative business of the University (regularly scheduled lectures, classes, exams, administrative meetings, etc.) continues unhindered. The University will accordingly take such steps as are necessary to ensure appropriate conditions to enable a conducive learning, working and living environment, and that academic and general facilities, property and equipment are available for use for their regular purposes as part of the ongoing academic and administrative business of the University.

Event organizers should consult the Freedom of Expression, Protest and Dissent: Guidance for Event Organizers and Participants document, which is intended to safeguard free expression by helping to make sure that all voices have the opportunity to be heard and that dissenting or opposing views can be expressed.

The document sets out the responsibilities of event organizers when planning events of a potentially controversial nature, and aspires to set a tone that is respectful and inclusive of the entire campus community. Event organizers are encouraged to consider the potential impact of their event on other individuals or groups and to work with the University so that any necessary measures or supports can be put in place.