A surprising defeat for fascism in Alberta, Canada. (H/T Andrew)
An Alberta judge ruled last week that universities are not entities deserving of independence and protection from the state, but rather that they are part of the state. In her decision, involving a case where twin brothers challenged being punished by the University of Calgary for negative Facebook posts about an instructor, Justice Jo’Anne Strekaf ruled that the university violated the Charter right to free expression. The landmark decision may have legal precedence, but it will unnecessarily handicap universities when acting as universities.
As only Parliament and provincial legislatures are subject to the Charter, Strekaf has confirmed that at least some policies held and enforced by universities are on par with government legislation when certain Charter rights are concerned.
In 1990, a Supreme Court ruling concluded that, despite government regulation and funding, universities “control their own affairs and enjoy independence from government regarding all important internal matters.” That ruling, long cited by universities accused of violating the Charter, did leave open the possibility that some university activities could be subject to Charter review.
Strekaf’s contribution is, briefly, that when dealing with the hiring and firing of staff, universities are not government. With respect to students, however, universities educate them according to a government mandate and, therefore, are government.
While the university argued that its disciplinary policies are part of a private contract between the U of C and students, Strekaf concluded that those policies are too closely related to the school’s educational mandate to not be considered government action.
Strekaf could have only ruled that the punishment (six months’ probation) was excessive, or inconsistent with university policy, or that the students’ comments were not defamatory, and left it at that. But no, the judge went all the way, and whittled Ivory Tower autonomy down to a pathetic nub.
[…]If Strekaf’s ruling holds, it will prove popular among any number of campus protest groups, and anti-abortion clubs in particular. Such groups have been denied campus space for their activities at schools across the country, and have even been arrested and charged with trespassing. They may now have a remedy.
I hope this decision will help the Canadian pro-life students who have to deal with censorship and coercion all the time. You’ll recall that the Canadian pro-life students face censorship, expulsion and even imprisonment from left-wing university administrators.