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CAUT calls for review of security agency activities on campus

(Ottawa – February 11, 2021) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is calling for a review of protocols regarding RCMP and CSIS activities on campus following recent instances of surveillance of students and academics, in a letter addressed to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair.

“The presence of the RCMP or CSIS at academic activities constitutes a serious threat to academic freedom,” says David Robinson, CAUT Executive Director. “Students and academic staff need to discuss and debate a variety of ideas, even those that challenge dominant paradigms, without fear of police surveillance.”

The letter was prompted by RCMP officers attendance at a book launch at Mount Allison University and reports of CSIS activities on campus.

In the letter, Robinson notes that, in 1963, CAUT then-President Bora Laskin and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson reached an accord to limit and provide oversight of RCMP activities on campus, in response to concerns about the impact on academic freedom and free expression. A 1997-98 review of campus investigations by the Security Intelligence Review Committee called for the renewed application of the Pearson-Laskin Accord principles.

“The impacts of security agency surveillance and presence on campus has the same chill effect today as it has in the past,” notes Robinson. “It is time to renew the checks and balances on security agencies’ activities on campuses.”

For more information: Lisa Keller, CAUT Communications Officer (c) 613-222-3530