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University of Waterloo’s attempt to break up protest alarming, says national teachers’ group

(Ottawa – June 26, 2024) The Canadian Association of University Teachers is alarmed over the University of Waterloo’s attempts to break up a student encampment on campus.

Last week, the university administration issued a second trespass notice against protesters. It has since sought a court injunction to clear the encampment and filed a statement of claim demanding $1.5 million in damages from those involved in the protest.

“The administration’s actions are a heavy-handed attempt to intimidate students who are supporting the encampment,” said CAUT executive director David Robinson. “The university should be treading very carefully and with utmost restraint when it comes to matters of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Universities and colleges must never restrict these rights unless there is clear and demonstrable evidence that a protest presents an imminent danger to people, serious violations of the law, or an impediment to essential operations.”

The attempt to end the encampment comes just days after the release of the University of Waterloo’s Task Force Report on Freedom of Expression and Inclusive Engagement. That report recommends that the administration abide by a “duty of restraint” when considering limits on peaceful assembly.

“Universities and colleges are expressly created and mandated to be physical spaces where free discussion and debate can flourish,” Robinson adds. “The University of Waterloo administration bears a heavy burden to justify any infringements of freedom of expression, academic freedom, and freedom of peaceful assembly.”

The Canadian Association of University Teachers is the national voice of 72,000 academic and professional staff at over 125 universities and colleges.