Volume 92, Issue 85

Wednesday, March 10, 1999


Editorial Board 1998-99

Fight for the right... to speak

Editorial Cartoon

Fight for the right... to speak

It might be an understatement to say our fundamental rights laid out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have become essential for all Canadian citizens. But recent national and local events have only proven the need to be thankful that freedom of expression and association are alive and well – as far as students are concerned.

The conflict surrounding the 1997 Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in which protesters were allegedly pepper-sprayed and mistreated by the RCMP, would appear to go against the notion of students' freedom of expression. The outcome, however, in which protesters are in the process of suing the RCMP and have garnered nation-wide support, only demonstrates that by saying something loud and clear, you will be heard by someone.

All voices can and should be heard, even if they are unpopular. Obviously there is a line one cannot cross in freedom of expression – as libelous, slanderous and hateful sentiments cannot be voiced without legal ramifications. Nevertheless, major issues often raise people to passionate debate and our freedom allows us to speak openly.

For example, yesterday the University Community Centre atrium was the centre of discussion about the United States' attacks on Iraq and their impact on the Iraqi people. This issue is one which causes individuals to disagree, often violently, but it is a necessary one to discuss. We should be proud of the fact that we can speak freely and critically about the actions of governments and engage in thoughtful conversation.

Similarly, an issue was debated at Althouse College last night which raises moral, ethical and religious disagreement. The talk, entitled "The Fetus, the Woman and the Law," allowed both the pro-life and pro-choice arguments of the abortion debate to be represented. It is through events such as this, in which students are allowed to present their varying opinions, where freedom of religion, belief and expression are most impressive.

The right to express one's opinion is often exercised by Western students, but also often taken for granted. Canadians should be proud of this fact and celebrate it often. The actions of the APEC protesters are also commendable, as they are trying to preserve the rights of free speech, as well as bringing student protest into the spotlight.

Too often the voices of youth are discounted as unintelligent and trivial. Governments and educational administration must remember and uphold Canadians' fundamental freedom of expression rights. This campus is alive with students willing to voice their opinions and no matter what is being said, these individuals should be given a round of applause for at least taking the chance to speak.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999