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Statement on the Right to Protest on Campus

In response to the University of Ottawa’s April 28 communication on freedom of expression, the APUO expresses our unequivocal support of our students’ and colleagues’ right to protest at our University of Ottawa campus. Building upon our December statement about academic freedom in times of conflict, we state in the strongest possible terms that the academic or expressive freedoms of all members of our campus community must be upheld, especially during times of conflict that deeply affect uOttawa students and workers.

On Tuesday, April 30, uOttawa students, supported by faculty and other members of the campus community, set up an encampment on Tabaret lawn. The group has presented several demands including calls for transparency about the University’s investment holdings and for its divestment from corporations complicit in human rights abuses. The APUO supports the calls for transparency and for divestment from corporations complicit in human rights abuses. 

Encampments and occupations have long been used by countless social movements. They are not new to our university. The APUO remains alarmed by the Central Administration’s seeming attempt to pre-emptively categorize such actions on campus as inherently unsafe. We call on the Central Administration to respect the encampment as a legitimate and peaceful form of protest. 

We echo and fully support the view put forward by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) in its recently published statement about the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest on campus:

University and college administrations fail in their duty to uphold the foundational purposes of our institutions when they limit or pre-empt peaceful protests and counter-protests. When administrators threaten or authorize the discipline or arrest of peaceful protesters on campus, they are silencing expression and censoring speech. Academic freedom cannot thrive when freedom of expression is constrained.”

The APUO calls on the University of Ottawa to protect and uphold the right to academic and expressive freedom of the members of our university community. We call upon the interim Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs and the Chief Investment Officer to accept the encampment organizers’ call for a meeting, and we urge the Administration to engage in good faith, transparent, meaningful dialogue.