The policies found on the website of the Secretariat are compulsory rules for the university community. The authoritative copies of the policies are held by the Secretariat and bear the seal of the university. The online version accessible through the website of the Secretariat is available for information purposes only. In case of discrepancy between the online version and the authoritative copy held by the Secretariat, the authoritative copy shall prevail. Please contact the Secretariat for assistance if necessary.

Established: 1 January 2019
Revised: N/A 
Mandatory review date: 1 January 2021
Supersedes: N/A
Class: G
Responsible/originating department: Office of the President
Executive contact: President and Vice-Chancellor

1. Introduction and Scope

“The objects of the University are the pursuit of learning through scholarship, teaching and research within a spirit of free enquiry and expression.” University of Waterloo Act, 1972, s.3. (the “Objects”)

Consistent with its Objects, the University has always been and will continue to be fully committed to providing an environment within which Members of the University and Visitors are able to engage in Free Speech on University Property and at University Events without Undue Interference.

The University has a robust framework to protect and promote open discussion and free inquiry in University Governing Documents including Policy 33 – Ethical Behaviour and the Memorandum of Agreement between the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo and the University of Waterloo. This Policy complements other such agreements and policies and does not supersede or restrict their application.

This Policy does not apply to legal strikes pursuant to the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (Ontario).

Capitalized terms used in this Policy are defined in Section 3 below.

2. Policy Statement

The University expects that all Members of the University and Visitors will respect the rights of others to engage in Free Speech on University Property and at University Events without Undue Interference.

Alleged breaches of this Policy by Members of the University will be managed in accordance with University Government Documents applicable to the conduct of Members of the University (including Policy 33 – Ethical Behaviour, Policy 71 – Student Discipline, Policy 18 – Staff Employment, and the Memoranda of Agreements with the Faculty Association, CUPE, and Staff Association of the University of Waterloo).

Alleged breaches of this Policy by Visitors will be managed in accordance with University Governing Documents applicable to the conduct of Visitors. Further, as appropriate, alleged breaches of this policy by Visitors will be referred to the University Police Services. Visitors found in breach of this Policy may be banned from or have conditions on their access to University Property and/or University Events.

3. Definitions

For the purposes of this policy, the following terms have the following meanings:

    1. “Canadian Law” means: legislation, regulations, by-laws, ordinances, and orders or decisions of tribunals or courts of competent jurisdiction, which govern Speech, including threats, violence, hate speech, defamation, libel, discrimination and harassment.
    2. “Exclusions” means:
      1. Speech that is in breach of Canadian Law (as defined above);
      2. Speech that is in breach of University Governing Documents; or
      3. Speech that constitutes Undue Interference.
    3. “Free Speech” means Speech, subject to the Exclusions. Free Speech includes Speech that may be considered offensive or disagreeable by some individuals or groups, as well as Speech that analyzes, critiques, debates, questions, challenges, criticizes, protests or otherwise disagrees with the Speech of others, provided the foregoing does not fall into an Exclusion.
    4. “Member of the University” means an individual employed by the University or registered as a student by the University.
    5. “Speech” means communication of any idea, opinion, concept, data or other view.
    6. “Undue Interference” means Speech or actions or threat thereof which are intended to prevent or substantially impair an individual’s or group’s ability to engage in Free Speech on University Property or at a University Event. Undue Interference includes Speech or actions that prevent a speaker from being heard or cause the University to cancel an event, because there is a credible threat to the safety or security of persons or property, in the opinion of University personnel or advisors, acting reasonably. Undue Interference does not include non-violent protests, provided such protests do not otherwise meet the criteria for Undue Interference as defined herein and do not otherwise breach University Governing Documents or Canadian Law.
    7. “University Events” means events on or off University Property, which are organized by the University and under the control of University employees.
    8. “University Governing Documents” means the University of Waterloo Act, 1972, by-laws of the governing bodies of the University, written agreements with the affiliated and federated institutions of Waterloo, written agreements with the recognized representatives of the employee and students groups, as well as policies, procedures, and guidelines housed on the website of the Secretariat.
    9. “University Property” means all real property owned and under the operational control of the University.
    10. “Visitors” means individuals on University Property or at University Events who are not University employees or students.

Amended, 28 February 2020 – Official titles only