Controversial Speakers

It is important to underscore that UBC does not endorse the views of any given organization that books events, nor does it endorse the views of any given speaker, whether from UBC or elsewhere.

Freedom of inquiry is a central tenet of the UBC Policy on Academic Freedom. There is, in principle, no higher authority to foreclose a given position or point of view—however unpopular, unorthodox or contentious. According to the policy, members of the university, and those invited to participate in its forum, can pursue fruitful avenues of inquiry... unhindered by external or non-academic constraints, [and] engage in full and unrestricted consideration of any opinion”; university leaders encourage community members to be mindful of fostering a positive and respectful environment as they rely on this policy.

As a public institution, UBC rents out space for a wide variety of purposes, including renting to external speakers who have no affiliation with UBC or other educational institutions. See UBC Policy UP9: Space Rental Policy. In most cases, speakers on campus uphold the protocols of respectful debate. UBC has a policy on risk assessment for all event bookings. Download the risk identification tool at Events Risk Management at UBC. UBC may cancel events where 1) there is a reasonable basis to determine the content of the event includes material that violates the law (for example that constitutes ‘hate speech’ pursuant to the Criminal Code of Canada or the BC Human Rights Code) or 2) it is determined that there is a risk to the safety and security of event attendees or other persons on campus, or a material risk to property, that cannot be adequately mitigated.

UBC offers help and support to any member of the community who has been distressed by an event hosting a controversial speaker. For students, visit the UBC Counselling Services and UBC Health Services; for faculty and staff, visit the UBC Employee & Family Assistance Program.

For more information about controversial speakers, see:

  • July 8, 2020 – Update on UBC’s Approach to Controversial Speaker Bookings (Professor Santa Ono)
  • September 24, 2019 – Statement from the Provost regarding controversial speakers on October 9, 2019

Statements Regarding Respectful Debate

  • April 6, 2017 – President’s Message to the UBC Community on Respectful Debate (Professor Santa Ono)
  • January 29, 2015 – President’s Message to the UBC Community on Respectful Debate (Dr. Arvind Gupta)
  • March 3, 2009 – President’s Message to the UBC Community on Respectful Debate (Professor Stephen Toope) – included in above two links

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