Freedom of Speech at the University of Toronto (PDAD&C #68)

From: Meric Gertler, President
Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President & Provost
Date: March 8, 2018
Re: Freedom of Speech at the University of Toronto (PDAD&C #68)

The University has established a website,, to serve as a resource regarding the University of Toronto’s longstanding commitment to free expression. The site collects the University’s policies and statements on free expression and related matters, offers answers to a few frequently asked questions, and provides links to statements made by other organizations and institutions.

In 1992, the Governing Council of the University of Toronto passed the University’s Statement of Institutional Purpose and its Statement on Freedom of Speech. These Statements have served as the cornerstones upon which the University of Toronto has built its commitment to free expression. That commitment has three principles.

First, members of the University must have the right to examine, question, investigate, speculate upon, and comment on issues without reference to prescribed doctrine, as well as the right to criticize society at large. These rights to free expression are a necessary precondition if the University is to accomplish its essential purpose: the pursuit of truth, the advancement of learning and the dissemination of knowledge.

Second, the right to free expression imposes accompanying responsibilities. The exercise of free expression must comply with applicable laws. In addition, the very possibility of free speech depends upon an environment of respect, civility, and inclusion. Speech or other acts that silence, intimidate, or stigmatize individuals or groups stand in direct opposition to free speech and subvert the contest of ideas at the heart of the University’s mission. But, at the same time, members of the University community must be prepared to challenge offensive or disturbing ideas – this is part of what it means to study and debate difficult topics.

Third, it has become ever more clear that principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion operate in concert with the rights of free expression to foster excellence. As the University’s Statement on Equity, Diversity, and Excellence notes, “excellence flourishes in an environment that embraces the broadest range of people, that helps them to achieve their full potential, [and] that facilitates the free expression of their diverse perspectives”. The free flow of a multiplicity of diverse ideas is one of the hallmarks of the University of Toronto and it has led to discovery, understanding, and advances in the human condition.