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Academic Freedom in Times of Conflict

The APUO is deeply disturbed by reports of growing antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Palestinian racism being observed across Canada. It is crucial that we collectively resist this hate. 

Responding to events unfolding on Canadian university campuses throughout October in response to the tragic events taking place in Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank, on November 2 the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) released an important statement about academic freedom in times of conflict. In this document, CAUT emphasizes the importance of maintaining academic freedom and all expressive freedoms particularly during periods of war, conflict, and social unrest, noting that: 

“ […] all academic staff have the right to engage in public debate, both within and outside of their areas of disciplinary expertise. The protection, within the law, of extramural expression, including the ability to espouse highly controversial and unpopular views, fulfills an essential mission of universities and colleges.”

CAUT’s statement goes on to specify that “[a]cademic freedom […] is not a licence to break the law, such as libeling someone, engaging in harassment or discrimination, violating hate speech laws, or disregarding professional duties and responsibilities”, and that “[…] these legal and professional limits do not preclude vigorous debate, intemperate language, or sharply negative criticism.

In recent weeks the APUO has learned of various actions being taken at our university wherein faculty and students have had their academic and expressive freedoms infringed upon. This includes the suspension of Dr. Yipeng Ge, a medical resident at uOttawa who is not an APUO member, and the arbitrary cancellation of student-run events. The APUO adds its voice to the calls for an independent investigation into Dr. Ge’s suspension. 

The tragic loss of civilian life in both Israel and Palestine has left many uOttawa communities grieving. In the wake of these events, it is unacceptable that those affected, and their allies, may also find themselves having to contend with restraints to their academic freedom and expressive freedoms.

Faculty, librarians, and students must be able to pursue their scholarly activities free from discrimination, harassment, interference, or censorship. Members who believe they have had their rights to academic or expressive freedom infringed upon are encouraged to contact the APUO at