Over the past six months, the Government of Alberta worked with universities, polytechnic institutions and colleges to clarify and strengthen free speech on campuses.

Institutions reinforced their commitment to free and open dialogue by developing policies that align with the principles of the University of Chicago Statement on Free Expression. These principles give students and faculty strong protection with respect to freedom of expression, and have been adopted by a number of post-secondary institutions throughout North America.

“I’m proud to deliver on this important commitment to Albertans. Free speech is at the heart of the academic experience and central to the role of an institution of higher learning. The ability to openly debate and discuss ideas is a foundational principle of our democracy and must always be upheld, even if the view being expressed is unpopular. From Day 1, I have emphasized a collaborative approach to the development of these policies and am happy to see our post-secondary institutions reaffirm their support of free speech without delay.”

Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education

“Through collaborative efforts, Alberta’s colleges, polytechnics, and universities create opportunities for Albertans to achieve their learning goals throughout life. Our collective commitment to embracing and protecting free and open enquiry and expression will continue to enable a rich learning environment in which students can freely and safely explore, challenge and debate different perspectives and ideas as part of their learning journey.”

Neil Fassina, president, Council of Post-secondary Presidents of Alberta and president, Athabasca University

Post-secondary institutions were asked to make their policies or board resolutions publicly available by Dec. 15, 2019. Institutions either formally adopted the principles of the Chicago Statement or developed their own policies that reflect the spirit of the statement. This unified approach provides a common understanding of freedom of expression throughout Alberta’s post-secondary system, while giving institutions flexibility to create policies that meet their unique needs.

Quick facts

  • University of Chicago Statement on Principles of Free Expression was created to articulate the University of Chicago’s commitment to “free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation” among community members.
  • Alberta is not the first province to require a free speech policy based on the University of Chicago principles. Ontario required its post-secondary institutions to adopt a single policy effective Jan. 1, 2019.
  • Post-secondary institutions in Alberta were asked to formally adopt the University of Chicago Statement, adopt its key principles, or develop their own policies that are compliant with the spirit of the principles.
  • Providing institutions the flexibility to develop their own policy that reflects the core principles of the University of Chicago statement enabled Alberta to create a consistent approach to freedom of expression while respecting the unique needs and context of each campus community.

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