A panel with the local Federal Election candidates that was supposed to take place in the University Centre courtyard at the University of Guelph tonight has been cancelled. The organizers are blaming Provincial Free Speech policies mandated on Ontario universities, which was forcing them to include a candidate of a certain party in the debate. Guess which one?
“The Central Student Association (CSA) represent all undergraduate students at the University of Guelph and CUPE 1334 represents 250 workers on campus and both unions operate under an anti-oppressive mandate and commitment to upholding equality and protecting marginalized groups from hate and violence on campus,” the two groups wrote in a joint statement posted on Facebook last night. “In order to ensure the safety of student and workers on campus, the decision to cancel the event was made by organizers.”
So who are we protecting the safety of students and workers against?
“Based on the platform of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), the decision was made to not invite the PPC candidate because of their policies and platforms that discriminate against people in the University of Guelph community, particularly marginalized groups, and therefore contradict the work of the CSA and CUPE 1334 to make an inclusive campus for all students and workers,” the statement said.
The CSA and CUPE 1334 are putting the blame on the Ford government, who mandated that all publicly-funded universities and colleges had to implement a free speech policy “that meets a minimum standard prescribed by the government” by January 1 this year.
The University of Guelph’s own ‘Policy Statement on Freedom of Expression‘says, “The University retains the ability to reasonably manage the time, place and manner of expression, and the use of University resources by members of the University community and the general public. The University reserves the right to restrict expression that it reasonably believes violates laws, creates safety concerns or disrupts the normal functioning of the University. ”
Remarks started being shared on Facebook on Monday that the CSA was being pressured by the University administration to include Mark Paralovos, Guelph’s People’s Party candidate, as part of Wednesday night’s event. For his part, Paralovos said in a YouTube video he posted on Monday that he was planning on attending the debate at the U of G even though it seems like it was never the intention of either the CSA or CUPE to formally invite him to the debate.
In a new video he posted today, Paralovos said that he had been in touch the CSA by email on Friday to tell them that he was a candidate in the election and had not benn invited to the debate. It seemed all was good, but according Paralovos, his invitation was rescinded in an email from the CSA on Monday.
“They’re implying that the People’s Party, and myself, are espousing hate and discrimination and that we would put in jeopardy a place where we were invited, but that’s patently false,” Paralovos said. “I have already participated in a high school debate at Bishop Macdonell with no problems, and the social justice debate at the Italian Canadian Club again with no problems.
“Everyone was able to share their ideas, and everybody, I think, was appreciative of being able to hear them, and go home and think about them, which, fundamentally, is what our democracy is all about,” he added.
Still, safety concerns are not unfounded.
A People’s Party event with leader Maxime Bernier at Mohawk College in Hamilton drew over 100 demonstrators Sunday. Some were there to support the PPC, but many were there to protest Bernier’s appearance on campus, and Hamilton police ended up arresting four people. This was the same protest that’s become infamous for the antifa-identified protestors who blocked an elderly woman and her assistant from entering the venue.
Of course, this kind of controversy is nothing new to the People’s Party in Guelph. In July, a town hall with Bernier was moved from the Guelph Youth Music Centre to an undisclosed location out of security fear. At the time, it was antifa protestors threatening violence, which supposedly prompted a change of venue. A peaceful protest against the event was held in Market Square on the evening Bernier was in town.
Paralovos also said that he had been in touch with the campaign of Conservative candidate Ashish Sachan, and alleges that they did not know about about debate at the U of G. If true, this would be the second all-candidates meeting or debate that the Conservative campaign claimed to be uninvited to during this election.
The letter from the CSA and CUPE directed people to attend either the 100 Debate on the Environment on Thursday at Centennial CVI, or the Guelph Chamber of Commerce debate on Wednesday October 9 at Guelph City Hall. Still, Paralovos was initially not invited to the 100 Debates event, and the Chamber debate is always exclusive to the main party candidates, though Paralovos has also been invited to take part in that one too.
The U of G debate was going to be open to all the other candidates running with the exception of Paralovos.
“The event was organized with the intent of bringing candidates to campus to hear from students and worker directly and for them to be able to learn about their platforms,” the CSA/CUPE statement said. “The organizers of this event stand by the decision not to let the PPC candidate speak on campus. We do not want to compromise the safety of students or workers by bringing this candidate and their supporters to campus.”
You can see the full letter below: