Langara College Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression

Executive Summary

Between March 2019 and May 2021, the President’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression developed this statement through an extensive, iterative process of consultation and consensus with members of the Langara community, including meetings and exchanges with the Langara Faculty Association (LFA), Langara students, the Langara local of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Langara Board of Governors, and two World Cafe events attended by faculty and staff. Its key points are:

  • Academic freedom and freedom of expression are core principles of intellectual inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge and are bedrock values of a well-functioning free and democratic society.
  • The practical effect of these principles is that when disputes around major social and political issues arise in classrooms and in colloquia and meeting spaces and public lectures at our colleges and universities, we should err on the side of tolerating free inquiry and freedom of expression. Provided expression of ideas does not overstep an extremely narrow range of primarily legal restrictions (described herein), it should not be censored even though it may be provocative or offensive. Such restrictions are to be interpreted to reflect Langara’s commitment to providing the broadest opportunity on campus for free and open discussion of ideas.
  • Protecting academic freedom and freedom of expression does not relieve us of our responsibility to foster an environment of civility, inclusivity, equity, and mutual respect. On the contrary, the broad rights of academic freedom and freedom of expression we enjoy oblige all of us to work harder to promote such an environment.
  • Highlights of the Langara College Statement of Principles include:
    • A description of the nature and importance of the values of academic freedom and freedom of expression, how they are related to each other, and why they are of vital importance today at colleges and universities in light of the uses of digital information technologies for spreading misinformed and intentionally false ideas.
    • A description of the “use/mention distinction” as a fundamental intellectual tool for critically evaluating ideas, including offensive ideas, without indicating endorsement of them.
    • The creation of an Advisory Committee and review process to provide a transparent and accountable process for expression of concern or complaints about the presence or restriction of ideas or persons at Langara.
  • Questions about this Statement can be directed to the College’s Provost or the Chair of the Advisory Committee.

Read the President’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression in PDF » 



Why has Langara created this Statement?

The Statement on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression was created in order to establish the principles upon which decisions will be made at Langara about academic freedom and freedom of expression on campus. The College has observed some of the challenges other post-secondary institutions have experienced in the past few years related to these matters and wanted to avoid those issues by clearly communicating our position and establishing a transparent process by which students, faculty, and staff, can express their concerns about potential speakers or issues.

How will Langara ensure that the College remains a welcoming place for equity seeking students, employees, and members of our community, while upholding this Statement?

While we value academic freedom and freedom of expression at Langara, that does not mean that anyone can say whatever they want. Within the Statement, the College does recognize some limits on free expression, specifically:

  1. the College can restrict expression that violates the law, including but not limited to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code, privacy laws, or human rights laws,
  2. that constitutes a genuine threat of harassment,
  3. that unjustifiably invades privacy or confidentiality interests,
  4. or is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the institution by posing an immediate, direct and substantial threat to the conduct of the College’s activities.

The College may also reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not unduly disrupt the activities of the College or violate College policy or the legal rights of College members.

I have concerns about a speaker/group coming to campus/not being permitted to come to campus. - OR - I am a student, and have concerns about content or language used in one of my classes/an event I attended. What should I do?

Langara recognizes that decisions to permit or restrict certain speakers or expression of some ideas on campus can be controversial. Such situations provide an opportunity for the College to discuss, learn, and educate about the nature and limits of academic freedom and freedom of expression. That is why we have developed the following review process:

  1. An individual, or group of individuals, may write to the Provost and Vice-President Academic and Student (the Provost) to explain their concerns at
  2. The Provost shall consult with the Academic Freedom Advisory Committee and respond to those concerns in writing, outlining reasons that certain individuals or expression of ideas have been permitted or restricted on campus. The response will outline any actions or plans for actions that the Provost or College has undertaken in response to the concerns expressed.
  3. The letter to the Provost, including the name(s) of the signatories, and the Provost responses shall be published publicly on this website.