Alberta’s Minister of Higher Education tasked with protecting free speech on campus

EDMONTON—Alberta’s Minister of Higher Education, Demetrios Nicolaides, is charged with improving free speech and academic freedom on his state’s campuses.

In a power of attorney issued on November 16, Alberta’s Premier Daniel Smith said that the state’s post-secondary institutions “adequately protect the academic freedom and freedom of speech of students and faculty.” I instructed the Minister to assure

“Our institutions of higher education must absolutely be places of open discussion,” Nicolaides told The Epoch Times.

“It’s important to the mission of the institution. When will that happen if we can’t participate in rigorous, open debate on college campuses?”

Nicolaides was promoted to the higher education file under former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in 2019 and retained the role when Smith announced her first cabinet on October 21.

Ministerial powers of attorney outlining ministerial priorities for a given term were not published under the Kenny administration. But Nicolaides said the previous letter was very comprehensive and much of the information was publicly available on his 2019 election platform for the United Conservative Party.

Epoch Times photo
Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Higher Education, was sworn into office on April 30, 2019 in Edmonton. (The Canadian Press/Jason Franson)

He says he is excited to continue the work he started in 2019. In his May of that year, he called on all publicly funded post-secondary institutions to develop policies to strengthen the right of students and faculty to exercise free speech.

The UCP government cites the University of Chicago’s Freedom of Speech Statement, which was created in 2014 to demonstrate its commitment to free speech on U.S. college campuses, and states that policies must be aligned with U.S. standards. said.

Nikolaides said all Alberta agencies will comply with this and by December 2019 will make it clear that “if you disagree with someone, you can’t just shut them down and drown them out with shouts and protests.” said that it has introduced a policy to

“Everyone has the right to express their opinion, and it must be nurtured, grown and nurtured, especially on our campus,” he said.

In 2018, the Ontario government also directed colleges and universities to adopt free speech policies aligned with the Chicago Principles. January 1, 2019.

Nicolaides said it was difficult to know how prevalent the problem of free speech suppression was on Alberta campuses because no data had been collected. He said, adding that much more could be done regarding data collection.

“There is more that we can do to be a little more rigorous in collecting data on cases of individuals who are not authorized to express opinions, cancel speeches, or do such things. I suspect it is,’ he said.

“So I think we need to be a little more rigorous about how we investigate and monitor this issue, because that’s not happening right now.”

Asked whether the data collection would be carried out as part of a mandate to protect free speech, the minister said at a later date that he had more to say. He said he would like to consult with state colleges and universities, student leaders, and other jurisdictions to develop a

Rachel Emmanuel


Rachel Emmanuel is in charge of federal and Alberta politics.