Free speech with strings attached

An attempt at implementing free speech is flawed when there’s a touch of silence

“We will not tolerate anybody using our children as pawns for grandstanding and political games. And, make no mistake, if we find somebody failing to do their job, we will
act.”

Who do you think made that comment? And who do you think it’s targeted towards?

Well, it’s targeted towards teachers in Ontario, and it was made by our Premiere, Doug Ford. What is he threatening our teachers about? The sex-ed curriculum that Kathleen Wynne introduced and put into action during her time as Premiere.

Last week, for our first issue, we published an article that discussed the Ontario government’s mandate for publicly funded Ontario colleges and universities to establish free speech policies, or they would face
funding cuts.

The mandate announcement also discusses that “speech that violates the law is also prohibited”.

Between the Ontario government threatening teachers for teaching Wynne’s sex-ed curriculum, and the mandate by the Ontario government to establish a free speech policy across all publicly funded post-secondary institutions, there’s a certain amount of hypocrisy that coincides with these mandates by the government.

The sex-ed curriculum became known as the “controversial” curriculum. When it first came out, I was grateful that it was being taught. To me, it was never controversial, it was informative and essential to a child’s growth in life. The new curriculum was a signifier of growth in our government and its policies that have been outdated for quite some time.

Ford’s government has now turned the curriculum into a fearmongering ideology. He uses the sentiment that parents have not been listened to for far too long, and that parents have not been heard. Following his entrance into office, he mandated that Wynne’s curriculum was to never be taught, and that the curriculum that was being taught before Wynne’s version is to be taught now. There’s even a spot on the Ontario website where one can complain about a specific teacher who chooses to continue teaching Wynne’s curriculum.

I find it incredibly difficult to be okay with a government who wants sex-education limited yet would like publicly funded institutions to have a free speech policy, while also silencing
any teacher who disagrees with the decision to revert back to the old curriculum. Of course, the two subjects don’t completely relate, however, how can a government mandate
free speech, yet limit the conversation that Wynne was aiming to start at a young age?

The principle of free speech is surrounded on the idea that individuals can say what they believe and have certain opinions without the fear of being ostracized for their personal
beliefs. However, by limiting the sex-ed curriculum, in a way, the conversation that included same-sex relationships for example, is now shut down and hid away from young
students. This is an issue, because if Ford’s government really wants institutions to preach free speech, then his mandate against the new sex-ed curriculum is directly against
that very freedom. Why? Because a conversation that teachers should be and are trying to have with children is now silenced.

If our government is unable to allow a conversation to be embedded in a curriculum, it’s hardly fair for the government to dictate a free speech policy. While the two issues are completely independent of one another, they do work hand in hand.

If we want our children and youth to fully engage in free speech, and to understand what that means, it’s essential to allow our youth to see their adults do it first. Give them the opportunity to believe and trust in us “adults” to be mature and discuss topics that may be considered taboo, freely.

Only then can the future of our youth grow to its ultimate potential.