Annual Report re: Policy 8 – Freedom of Speech - 2019

2019 Annual Report re: implementation of free speech policy at the University of Waterloo

Initiation of the Policy

Over the fall of 2018, the University of Waterloo developed, and then undertook extensive consultation on the proposed University of Waterloo Freedom of Speech policy. Many University of Waterloo governance bodies were provided with the opportunity to consider the draft policy and provide feedback on it, including the University’s: Faculty Relations Committee, Graduate Student Relations Committee, Staff Relations Committee, Undergraduate Student Relations Committee, Senate, and Board of Governors. These consultations revealed that the community supported the draft policy language. All substantive discussion that was generated through these consultations concerned ensuring text clarity, and the policy’s fit with existing University of Waterloo policies.

Following these consultations, clarifications were made to the draft, and per the University’s practice, Policy 8 – Freedom of Speech (link: was approved by University of Waterloo President and Vice-Chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur on 21 December 2018 with an effective date of
1 January 2019.

In response to the questions raised by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario memorandum of 12 June 2019 re: implementation of the policy, the University of Waterloo offers the following.

Institutional Culture & Policies

Q: In the wake of the government’s requirement for institutional free speech policies, has there been ongoing debate or dialogue on campus with regard to freedom of speech?

The University of Waterloo community engaged on the subject of free speech in light of the proposed policy during the fall of 2018. Since the policy’s establishment and implementation, there has not been ongoing debate or dialogue on campus re: freedom of speech.

Q: Have institutional practices changed as a result of the free speech policy? For example, has the new free speech policy led to a re-examination or amendment of other institutional policies? If yes, please describe.

The University was well-positioned with respect to its policies and practices before the new policy was put in place. Waterloo had, and continues to have, other policies and agreements regarding the rights of individuals to academic freedom, and freedom from undue interference, harassment, discrimination, and physical harm. The new policy has not given rise for a need to re-examine or amend these documents.

Q: Now that your free speech policy has been in effect for a period of time, have any issues emerged that would cause you to re-evaluate or amend your existing policy? If so, please describe.

No issues have arisen since the implementation of the policy which would cause the University to re-evaluate or amend it.


We would like to get a sense of the ratio of free speech complaints to the overall number of public events on campus. In this case, we are interested in non-curricular events – invited speakers, for example – as opposed to regular events held as part of an academic program.

Q: To the best of your ability, please provide an estimate of the number of non-curriculum events that have been held at the institution since January 1, 2019.

The University estimates that it held approximately 173 public, non-curriculum events since the implementation of the policy at the beginning of the year to 19 August 2019. These events include invited speakers, seminars, symposia, lectures, discussion groups, conferences, concerts, plays, and competitions.

Q: Is there a designated office at the institution where members of the institutional community (or guests) are directed when there is a free speech related question or complaint about an event on campus?

Yes. The responsible University officer for Policy 8 – Freedom of Speech, is the President and Vice-Chancellor. In addition, the Waterloo community is aware of and frequently engages with the University’s Secretariat on policy interpretation. No inquiries have been made to either office about the policy since its implementation.

Q: How did your institution navigate free speech related cost and/or safety concerns related to events on campus? To your knowledge, were there any instances where a non-curriculum event did not proceed due to these concerns?

As was in place before the implementation of the policy, all costs relating to safety and security activities are borne by the host. When the University hosts events or speakers which require security, it assumes such costs; when an external party uses University space for an event that requires security, that party is responsible for those costs. The implementation of the policy did not change these activities.

Since 1 January 2019, the University imposed security costs on 12 events. To the University’s knowledge, there have been no instances of any event, curricular or otherwise, that did not proceed as a result of costs or safety concerns associated with the event.


Q: Have any organized campus events or incidents on campus – curricular or non-curricular – caused members of the institutional community (or guests) to make an official complaint about free speech on campus?

There have been no complaints received to date by the Office of the President and Vice-Chancellor relating to the policy.