Search on MTL Blog

Quebec Is Bringing Its 'War On Woke' To Unis With A Crackdown On 'Safe Spaces' In Class

A bill would ban universities from requiring professors to give trigger warnings.

Senior Editor
Arts Building in front of the Y intersection of the McGill University downtown campus in the spring.

Arts Building in front of the Y intersection of the McGill University downtown campus in the spring.

In the latest chapter in the conflict between Boomers and Gen Z, the Quebec government is introducing a bill that it says will "recognize and promote academic liberty" in universities. According to Higher Education Minister Danielle McCann, the bill would ban universities from requiring professors to give trigger warnings for "shocking" course content, among other measures.

Classrooms, McCann said, summarizing a report from a commission on academic freedom, "should not be considered safe spaces."

The introduction of the bill follows several high-profile incidents worldwide in which university students, professors, and administrators have debated the role of institutions of learning as social and political actors, as well as teachers' responsibility for the language they use in the classroom.

In Canada, the University of Ottawa drew national attention after students protested one professor's use of the N-word in a course.

McCann did not mention that specific case but called such responses to course content generally "troubling."

Her bill, she said, will define "academic liberty" and require universities to define policies to promote it.

She declared "the bill would reaffirm that academic liberty and the autonomy of [academic] establishments are essential conditions for the accomplishment of the mission of universities."

The CAQ government has repeatedly railed against progressive social discourse in schools, leading CBC's Jonathan Montpetit to declare the premier had joined the broader "war on woke" amongst conservative governments.

(Legault himself has come out against what he has called the "woke," defined by him as people who aim to "make us feel guilty about defending the Quebec nation and its values.")

In a February 2021 response to the situation at the University of Ottawa, Legault said arguments against absolute freedom of speech in universities threatened democratic values.

"The use of certain words can harm," he wrote, "and we have to recognize the pain of people who experience [that harm]."

"However, their just cause must not be hijacked by radicals who want to censor, muzzle, intimidate and hinder our freedom of speech."

Recommended For You

Loading...