Illustration by Melanie Arul.

During the Ontario provincial election campaign in 2018, Doug Ford announced he would tie funding to free speech on campus.

“Colleges and universities should be places where students exchange different ideas and opinions in open and respectful debate,” said Ford in August 2018 in a released statement. “Our government made a commitment to the people of Ontario to protect free speech on campuses.”

Soon enough, students across Ontario became well aware of Ford’s plans to cut funding if the institution did not develop free speech policies.

Isn’t that ironic? You give the impression that you’re defending free speech when you’ve also been critiquing the exercise of free speech in the first place.

This is, unfortunately, the message we are being sent. Say what you want, but tweak it to fit everyone else’s views – and not your own.

According to this year’s Campus Freedom Index – an annual report by Calgary’s Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms – of the 60 Canadian universities rated for their status of free speech, more schools earned F ratings than As.

This is an issue that so often slips between the cracks and conversations of our daily lives. It rarely sees the surface it so desperately needs.

We value freedom of speech because it unites us and gives us our sense of independence and the right to voice our opinions. But when that “freedom” is purposely restructured, things can get a little dicey.

Take for example the protests in Hong Kong. The ongoing series of demonstrations have resulted in at least 10 deaths and 2000-plus injuries.

The country has ties to the NBA – National Basketball Association – which allows players and the organization to have freedom of speech. But when one of the teams’ general managers tweeted to show his support for the Hong Kong protesters, the league bent to China’s will and sacrificed one of America’s core beliefs.

So much for freedom of speech. I guess money is valued more than our rights.

We can’t stand by while we watch others twist and contort our words for us.

We need to fight for the right to have our voices heard. Sure- we do have so called freedom of speech, but there are forces out there that are trying to bend and manipulate our voices.

You can complain, be upset, throw a tantrum or sit oddly by. But if you don’t use your voice, you’ll lose it.