Quebec’s higher education minister Pascale Dery denounced censorship and “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” (EDI) hiring practices in a letter to the province’s post-secondary institutions.
Dery’s letter comes amid campus events being shut down by activists, professors being suspended for their views and universities engaging in restrictive hiring to increase diversity.
“Under no circumstances should we tolerate censorship in academic settings,” wrote Dery in French. She added that censorship hinders thinking and creates fear, which interferes with the pursuit of excellence. “We cannot sacrifice academic freedom for the sake of specific struggles, at the risk of losing both in the end.”
Dery says higher education was founded on academic freedom, with the latter being both a fundamental value and a Quebec value. “It shapes our actions, our thinking and our approach to higher education not only for the benefit of the student and faculty community, but for Quebec society as a whole.”
The Coalition Avenir Quebec government minister also addressed EDI hiring practices in her letter, noting that while she supports the seeking of more diverse and inclusive post-secondary institutions, the latter “must not in any way lead to any form of discrimination or injustice.”
She pointed to the Trudeau government’s Canada Research Chairs program’s EDI policy, which requires institutions who receive funding to work towards meeting equity and diversity targets. Dery believes these requirements “rather restrict certain rights and reduce the primacy of the notions of competence and excellence.”
Dery has asked the province’s Chief Scientist to review evaluation grids for Quebec Research Funds so there is not a predominance of EDI objectives, noting that contrary “would jeopardize excellence, the search for truth and academic freedom.”
Dery’s letter was sent less than a week after trans activists stormed and shut down a seminar on sex vs. gender and the split of some gay and lesbian activists away from transgender causes at McGill university. The speaker, King’s College London human rights law professor and gay rights advocate Robert Wintemute, told True North the censoring of his event was “horribly anti-democratic.”
Meanwhile, Quebec City’s Laval University suspended two professors, Patrick Provost and Nicolas Deromer, after they expressed skepticism over the administering of Covid-19 vaccines to children.
Laval has also been under fire for Canada Research Chairs positions that exclude able-bodied white men, including one in its biology department, as previously reported by True North.
This is not the first time that Quebec’s CAQ government has defended academic freedom and merit, and criticized woke policies.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault previously defended francophone University of Ottawa professor Verushka Lieutenant-Duval after she was attacked for saying the “N-Word” in her Art and Gender class while explaining how certain marginalized groups have reclaimed slurs.
The CAQ also introduced an academic freedom bill last year which allows professors to use any word in an educational context and the Quebec National assembly unanimously passed a motion expressing support for merit-based hiring while denouncing race and gender quotas.
Dery’s letter has received support on social media from people living both in and outside of Quebec.