Posted 2 November 2023
The Osgoode Hall Faculty Association (OHFA) Executive understands that this is a difficult time for many of our members, with the conflict in the Middle East. We strongly condemn all violence against civilians. We stand strongly against anti-Semitism, anti-Palestinian racism, Islamophobia and other forms of hate. We affirm the importance of academic freedom, especially in times of conflict. Regardless of their views and tone, and so long as they act within the law, OHFA members are accorded academic freedom and should not face disciplinary action for expressing their scholarly views.
The OHFA Executive is deeply concerned about the statements made in the Ontario legislature on October 17, 2023 by Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities.
In addressing a debate on the current conflict in the Middle East, Minister Dunlop named an Osgoode Hall Law School Professor, Heidi Matthews, and other professors, as well as students from York University and elsewhere. They were labelled anti-Semitic and accused of “celebrating” terrorism. The Minister also implied if not encouraged university administrations to pursue disciplinary actions against the named individuals.
Article 11.01 of the Collective Agreement sets out the administration and OHFA’s shared and ongoing obligations to “upholding, protecting, and promoting academic freedom as essential to the pursuit of truth and the fulfillment of the University’s objectives.” Academic freedom includes the freedom of an OHFA member “to disseminate her opinion(s) on any questions related to her teaching, professional activities, and research both inside and outside the classroom.” We believe that the exercise of academic freedom extends to social media postings and that the administration has an obligation to support OHFA members in the pursuit of research, creative and professional activities free of “interference or reprisal”.
The OHFA Executive endorses the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT)’s letter to the Minister and Memorandum 23:41 “Academic Freedom in Times of Conflict,” as well as the statement on academic freedom and campus safety from the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).
We take the position that, as stated by CAUT, “any institutional reprisal against or censorship of a member for expressing, within the law, their views on matters of public interest would violate their academic freedom.” Further, we share CAUT’s characterization of the Minister’s remarks as “a serious infringement on the principle of university autonomy.” The OHFA Executive holds steadfast to the view articulated by OCUFA that the Minister’s assertions are “antithetical to the academic mission of our universities.”We call on the administrations of Osgoode Hall Law School and York University to forcefully defend academic freedom, university autonomy and freedom of expression of staff and students by publicly denouncing the Minister’s statements and demanding an immediate retraction and public apology.
The OHFA Executive
Posted 2 March 2023
On 29 November 2022, Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice declared that the 2019 Wage Restraint Act (“Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act”; formerly, Bill 124) violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is “void and of no effect.” The Ford government is appealing that decision.
OHFA’s reopener clause (in the York University – OHFA Memorandum of Agreement signed 19 August 2022) reads as follows:
6. Letter of Understanding re Wage Reopener
The Parties hereby understand and agree that in the event that the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019 (“Bill 124”) is repealed, or successfully challenged through the courts such that it is of no force and effect and is not the subject of any ongoing appeal, during the term of the renewal collective agreement (i.e. at any point prior to June 30, 2025), the parties agree to re-negotiate the portions of those salary and compensation provisions of this collective agreement that were limited by Bill 124, but only to the extent permitted by law and having regard to the Employer’s financial position.
This Letter of Understanding will expire on June 30, 2025.
OCUFA – part of a coalition that launched a Charter challenge in 2020 – issued a public statement calling on Ontario universities to revisit collective agreements negotiated during the three-year moderation period. In addition, OCUFA highlights bargaining gains by Trent and Wilfred Laurier. In addition, Queen’s has recently ratified its collective agreement; QUFA is the first OCUFA member association to settle following the dismissal of Bill 124 without having served a moderation period.
Posted 8 July 2020
The following message is from the OHFA Executive:
On November 20, 2019, a student-sponsored event in Vari Hall featuring speakers from the Israeli military led to confrontations involving a number of (internal and external) groups seeking to have their views heard on the Israel-Palestine conflict. In the wake of this event, the administration commissioned an inquiry by former Supreme Court Justice Thomas A. Cromwell who was asked to address several issues of security and expression related to campus events.
One part of the Cromwell mandate was to examine “the University’s policies governing freedom of speech on campus.” This part of his report is of particular interest to OHFA, given that academic freedom is protected by Article 11 of the OHFA Collective Agreement.
As part of his general recommendation that “the University should develop a clear policy framework defining what constitutes racism, harassment and discrimination, particularly in relation to extra-curricular activities and conduct by student groups,” Mr. Cromwell noted that several organizations had urged the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism. At p. 46 he observed that draft legislation was before the Ontario legislature that, if enacted, would add this definition to the province’s Legislation Act; and further, that the University “should monitor the progress of this legislation and also consider the IHRA’s Working Definition as it develops its own statement on racism and discrimination.”
The IHRA working definition has been linked to a lobbying effort calling on governments, universities and other bodies to condemn and even to prohibit criticisms of the state of Israel as dangerous expressions of anti-Semitism. The OHFA Executive opposes anti-Semitism and all forms of racism and hatred. We view the adoption of the IHRA definition as a potential threat to academic freedom in that it could be used to restrict the academic freedom of teachers and scholars who have developed critical perspectives on the policies and practices of the state of Israel.
No university in Canada has adopted the IHRA working definition, and a number of problems associated with it in the Canadian context are reviewed in a recent opinion piece in University Affairs (https://www.
We therefore call on President Lenton to decline to promote the adoption of any definition of anti-Semitism or racism, including this one, that can be used to suppress academic freedom. Moreover, prior to adopting any statement on racism and discrimination that could have implications for academic freedom and expression, OHFA calls on the York administration to ensure that OHFA and other groups potentially affected be given the opportunity to participate in meaningful consultations.
We also wish to draw attention to a related matter involving our colleague Faisal Bhabha. On June 10, 2020. Prof. Bhabha participated in an online event organized by the Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University, co- sponsored by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, at which the IHRA definition was debated; the video is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Prof. Bhabha is a member of the OHFA executive, but this statement is made with respect to his rights as an OHFA member and a member of the York University community.
Posted 21 March 2018
As a gesture of support for CUPE 3903, which went on strike on 5 March, OHFA has provided a financial contribution. We hope for a fair, equitable, and speedy resolution.
Posted 18 January 2018
College faculty in Ontario face difficult working conditions. As a gesture of support for the college faculty which went on strike in the fall of 2017, OHFA provided a financial contribution to Toronto local OPSEU-CAAT Academic.
Posted 30 June 2017
The costs of law school put a major financial burden on Osgoode students. To settle a grievance against the Osgoode Administration for a lack of notice and meaningful consultation with OHFA, the Association proposed and the Employer agreed to contribute $50,000 to a new bursary that will be disbursed annually by the Administration to support Osgoode students in financial need.
For information, click here.