Committee on Academic freedom

Update on the work of the Committee on Academic Freedom

The Committee on Academic Freedom is working diligently to fulfill its important mandate. The Committee completed the first phase in its work, namely a round of consultations with members of the University community that took place from May 14 to June 4, 2021. The committee members would like to thank all those who participated in the consultations by submitting briefs and comments. All the documents received will be analyzed in order to capture their major themes.

Since the start of its mandate, the Committee has also undertaken the following actions:

  • Compiling a list of incidents involving academic freedom and freedom of speech that have occurred on Canadian campuses.
  • Completing an inventory of the principles invoked and measures for processing grievances at Canadian universities, and at some US and British universities.
  • Reviewing the studies on issues related to freedom of speech and academic freedom, including two major studies.
  • Consulting with a similar committee at the University of Montreal.

The Committee is currently meeting with specific groups to add to the information collected to date, including the Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa (APUO), the Association of Part-Time Professors of the University of Ottawa (APTPUO), the Graduate Student’s Association of the University of Ottawa (GSAÉD), the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) and the Special Advisor on Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence.

If you have any questions about the Committee or its work, feel free to contact us at consultations@uottawa.ca  

Consultations

As part of the Committee’s consultations with members of the University community, professors, students, and support staff members were invited to share their thoughts on the following topics:

  • How do you define academic freedom?
  • In a university setting, is there a difference between academic freedom and freedom of speech? If so, how are academic freedom and freedom of speech different?
  • What do you feel are the limits of academic freedom and freedom of speech?
  • What is the scope of freedom of speech at the University as an institution?
  • As a bilingual institution, how should the University balance academic freedom with its values of equity, diversity, and inclusion?
  • What mechanism(s) should the University put in place to handle complaints related to academic freedom and University values?

The consultations elicited keen interest and the Committee members are pleased with the wealth of comments and submissions received.

The Committee is very grateful for the participation and engagement shown by members of the University community, whose comments will enrich and inform the committee’s current work and the writing of the final report.

Chair

The Honourable Michel Bastarach, C.C., QC.

The Honourable Michel Bastarache, C.C., QC.

The Honourable Michel Bastarache, C.C., QC

Mr. Justice Bastarache, B.A., LL.L., LL.B., D.E.S. received eight honorary degrees. He was called to the Bar in six provinces. He worked for the New Brunswick and federal governments. He was Vice-President and Director of Marketing at Assumption Life, later President and Chief Executive Officer of Assumption Life and its subsidiaries. He was law professor and Dean at the University of Moncton Law School and Associate Dean, Common Law Section, University of Ottawa. He practised law in Ottawa and in Moncton. Mr Bastarache was appointed to the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick in 1995 and the Supreme Court of Canada in 1997. Mr Justice Bastarache retired from the court in 2008 and practices law under his own name. Mr Bastarache was a member of the Interim Constitutional Court of Kenya. He was also Commissioner for La Commission d’enquête sur la nomination des juges au Québec. He was the Independant conciliator for the indemnification of victims of sexual abuse for the dioceses of Bathurst and Moncton. He is now the Independent conciliator for the indemnification of the female members of the RCMP victims of sexual harassment. He is vice president of the Administrative Tribunal of the Association of American States in Washington. He is editor and principal author of three books and was awarded a dozen awards, especially Companion of the Order of Canada and Officier de la Légion d’honneur.

Members

Tansy Etro-Beko, Part-time Professor, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts;

Jude Mary Cénat, Assistant Professor, School of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences;

Dr. Alireza Jalali, Associate Dean, External Relations, Engagement and Advancement, Faculty of Medicine;

Jonathan Paquette, Professor and holder of the research chair on the international Francophonie and cultural heritage policies, Faculty of Social Sciences;

Sophie Thériault, Vice Dean (Academics) and Full Professor, Faculty of Law, Civil Law

Mandate

The committee’s mandate is to independently review the following subjects with a view to issuing recommendations:

  • The issues at stake, including those involving academic freedom, including freedom of expression, the institutional autonomy of universities, equity, diversity, inclusion, and the pursuit of true equality along with the inherent legal aspects of these issues;
  • The challenges that these issues present for the University of Ottawa, a bilingual university, in fulfilling its mission of teaching, conducting research, and serving the community;
  • The lessons learned from similar incidents that have occurred at the University of Ottawa and elsewhere in Canada; and
  • The best approaches and mechanisms to be used by members of the administration and University community for reconciling the issues at stake and in such situations as they arise.

The committee will consult the members of the University community and report its findings to the President, the Senate, and the Board of Governors.

Message from President Jacques Frémont to our uOttawa Community

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