uOttawa's President Jacques Frémont's response to the letter sent to him by the leader of the Parti Québécois last week:
Ottawa, March 21, 2021
Mr. Paul St-Pierre Plamondon
Leader of the Parti Québécois
325 - 4115, Ontario Street East
Montréal, QC H1V 1J7
I would like to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated March 19, 2021, where you submitted a complaint against a University of Ottawa professor, reiterating the same concerns you brought to my attention during our phone conversation earlier last week. I appreciate you having taken my call.
As I explained when we spoke, the University of Ottawa dissociates itself from the comments made by this professor – and we did so, right from the beginning. His opinion, expressed as a private citizen, does not reflect in any way the position of the University of Ottawa, nor my own opinion.
I appreciate and respect the fact that you and many of the citizens of Québec are offended and even insulted by such comments, and I deplore these kinds of highly polarizing statements made in public forums, particularly on social media. Along with others, I find it disturbing to see such a vindicative tone and personal attacks posted on Twitter and other platforms. Nonetheless, freedom of expression, we will agree, is not a buffet where one can pick and choose what kind of speech is deemed acceptable or not.
In context, the University must differentiate between comments made publicly from those made in a more formal academic setting, such as a classroom, should it be virtual or not. With respect to the latter, the University has the obligation to ensure that a respectful learning environment is maintained, in the best interest of both our students and our faculty members. At all times, the University aims to avoid censorship and to protect freedom of expression for all; a value that is crucial and upheld on all campuses.
The University of Ottawa publicly and continuously denounces vindictive remarks, the lack of civility and the outrageous generalizations made against a person or a group of people, especially if it is an attack on who they are, the color of their skin, language, origin, beliefs, or any other personal characteristic. This kind of behaviour goes against the values of rigour, and tolerance we aim to convey to our students and share with the communities with which we work on a daily basis.
Lastly, I would like to reaffirm uOttawa’s deep commitment toward the Francophonie, the Québec society, and all francophone communities across Canada. Our University has been serving Canadian Francophonie since 1848 and intends to continue to support and foster this mission in the future.
President and Vice-Chancellor