Joint Statement on Student Freedom of Expression and the Right of Peaceful Protest

We, the undersigned, defend the right of students to free expression and peaceful assembly at universities and colleges, and condemn those post-secondary institutions that have used violence to forcibly remove and repress students exercising those rights. Freedom of expression and assembly are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, as well as it guarantees that everyone has the right to peaceful assembly. They are essential to the experience and education of post-secondary students as independent critical thinkers.

Recent actions at university campuses across North America, and specifically at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta, have violated these foundational principles of academic institutions. The University of Lethbridge Students Union has issued a strong statement of solidarity with their fellow students, condemning the use of police on Alberta university campuses, and reminding students and University administrations of our charter rights. In the same spirit, we remind the Board of Governors at the University of Lethbridge that the Board is co-signatory to the Collective Agreement and should protect the freedom of expression of students as well as the academic freedom of ULFA Members.

Fortunately, the University of Lethbridge has historically had a very different relationship to peaceful student protests. In 2003, U of L undergraduates set up a peace camp on campus in response to the invasion of Iraq. The University administration offered contacts and assistance and later protected the protestors against violent action. It is a healthy precedent of tolerance and respect to consider today, and to uphold actively in the event that protests take place on our campus.

University and college campuses must foster dialogue, debate, and the free exchange of ideas. Chartered rights are not just legal formalities; they are fundamental to the functioning of a democratic society and to the academic mission of universities as places of open inquiry and debate. The use of force to suppress these rights is unjustifiable without a demonstrable threat to campus safety. We call on all university and college administrations to respect and uphold these values, which are essential to students, faculty, and our society.


The Executives of the University of Lethbridge Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), University of Lethbridge Academically Employed Graduate Student’s Union (ULGA), University of Lethbridge Postdoctoral Fellows Association (ULPA), and University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA)