On Campus

UBC cracking down on free speech, says liberties group

University says rule is intended to prevent "predatory commercial marketing practices"

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association says free speech is being threatened at the University of British Columbia, where the group says students have been forbidden from posting signs and posters on dorm buildings or in dorm windows “visible from the Thunderbird Winter Sports Centre.”

According to a press release issued by the group, the school has asked students who live on campus to sign a tenancy agreement that obliges them not to post “signage or displays that create a false or unauthorized commercial association with the Olympics.” In response, the BCCLA says it will be working with students in September to “overturn this prohibition on speech,” similar to agitation that took place during 1997’s APEC protests at the school.

“Canada, B.C. and Vancouver said in our bid documents that we would honour our constitutional commitment to free speech, but they forgot to mention this right was reserved for Olympic sponsors alone,” said Robert Holmes, BCCLA president in the release. “It’s time for a sober second look at these anti-free speech activities.”

UBC spokesperson Stephen Owen told the CBC that the university is not trying to suppress anyone’s right to political protest.

He says the clause in question is intended to protect the commercial interests of games organizers.

“There’s absolutely no impact on free expression of personal or political views. It’s very strictly limited to predatory commercial marketing practices,” says Owen.

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