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Deadline to implement free speech policies at Alberta universities extended

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ABOVE: The Alberta government is giving that province's colleges and universities more time to implement new guidelines on free speech. Heather Yourex-West explains. – Aug 1, 2019

The Alberta government is giving post-secondary schools in Alberta more time to come up with policies that would protect controversial groups and speakers from being censored on campus.

“A lot of their boards aren’t meeting over the course of the summer,” said Alberta Advanced Education Minister Demetrious Nicolaides.

“A lot of faculty and student representatives aren’t around.”

Schools will now have until Dec. 15 to implement freedom of speech policies that conform with the Chicago Principles, which were first approved by the University of Chicago in 2015.

READ MORE: Ontario post-secondary schools expected to now have free-speech policies in place

In recent years, Canadian campuses have cancelled appearances by controversial speakers like Faith Goldy and Jordan Peterson following public backlash.

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Nicolaides believes that’s a problem.

“One of the key purposes of a post-secondary institution,” he said, “is to engage in philosophical debate, critical thinking [and] academic discovery, and of course that can’t happen without strong protections around free speech.”

WATCH: (May 14, 2019) Hate speech versus free speech

Click to play video 'Hate speech versus free speech' Hate speech versus free speech
Hate speech versus free speech – May 14, 2019

University of Alberta women’s studies lecturer Shama Rangwala, meanwhile, disagrees.

The simple act of giving such groups and speakers a platform on campuses, she says, lends them credibility they may not deserve.

“We know that this isn’t actually about free speech,” Rangwala said. “It’s about giving a platform to ideas that would not otherwise be legitimized by the norms of how we legitimize knowledge in the university.”

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READ MORE: Ontario post-secondary schools expected to now have free-speech policies in place

Ontario’s colleges adopted a universal free-speech policy late last year, after the governing Progressive Conservatives announced that all publicly-funded colleges and universities would have until Jan. 1, 2019 to develop and implement a free speech policy “that meets a minimum standard prescribed by the government.”

The government said that institutions will have to report on their progress each year starting in September and any that fail to comply with the free-speech requirements could face a cut in funding.