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Academic Views

President’s Message: Bill 18, the Job Action Task Force, and the Police Action on Campus

Good day, dear colleagues,

I write to you today to provide updates on three areas of concern: Bill 18, the Job Action Task Force, and the Police Action on Campus.

Bill 18 – Provincial Priorities Act

Following up on my May letter to you, I can report that on May 13, I, along with the faculty association presidents from the Universities of Alberta, Mount Royal, Athabasca, MacEwan, and Concordia met in person with the Minister of Advanced Education, Rajan Sawhney, and presented our case for the removal of the words “a public post-secondary institution as defined in the Post-secondary Learning Act” from Bill 18.

The University of Alberta faculty association president addressed financial concerns, and I spoke about the attack on academic freedom and the breach of post-secondary researchers’ Charter rights. Our colleagues provided examples of how these issues were significant to their institutions and to Alberta. I then asked the Minister why the government had included post-secondary institutions in the Bill. She responded that it was the only way for the government to know how much research funding was coming into Alberta from federal bodies and to increase research funding. My immediate response was that this information, if not already available, could be readily made available by universities to the government, negating the need for post-secondary education to be included in the Bill. The other members of our informal delegation immediately agreed and pressed the Minister to reconsider. She stated that the process had progressed through many stages and that the cabinet supported the Bill “as is.” However, she acknowledged our concerns and mentioned that an exception for post-secondary education was being considered by the government, to be addressed in the regulations once the Bill was passed.

What has happened since that meeting? On Wednesday, May 15, the Provincial Priorities Act passed its third reading. The next day our delegation wrote to the Minister to voice our continuing concern, emphasizing that a regulatory exception was not acceptable because she or any future minister could alter or remove the exception at will. On May 30 the Act received Royal Assent but it is unclear if it has been proclaimed.

Notwithstanding the passage of the Act, TUCFA remains committed to publicly protest the inclusion of post-secondary institutions in the Act. On Thursday, June 13, our General Faculties Council will review a “Motion Regarding Bill 18,” which addresses our concerns regarding the statute. Some might argue that the motion is now moot, but I respectfully disagree. Similar motions have been passed by the GFCs of the University of Alberta, Lethbridge, and Mount Royal University. By passing our motion, with the appropriate amendments to refer to the Act rather than the Bill, our GFC motion will stand alongside these as a united voice against the government’s ideologically and politically based “provincial priorities” over scholastically vetted academic research and the rights of our members to academic freedom and freedom of thought, belief, opinion, expression, and association.

As members, you can express your support for your Association’s motion by asking your GFC representative to support it at the June 13 meeting.

Job Action Task Force

As you are aware, bargaining negotiations between the Board of Governors and TUCFA are underway and the outcome of negotiations remaining uncertain. As a result, we are continuing to prepare for potential job action. The Job Action Task Force has been formed and is drafting the Terms of Reference for five sub-committees: Communications, Finance, Materials, Social, and Picketing. Concurrently, a group of four of our members have formed the core of the Communications sub-committee and will be in contact with their counterparts at the Universities of Alberta and Lethbridge. A professor in Haskayne has been approached to lead the creation of the Finance Sub-Committee. The other committees will be formed in due course.

Beyond the above, we remain in close contact with our sister institutions-the Universities of Alberta, Lethbridge, and Mount Royal-as we continue our job action preparations, as do they. This is not in anticipation of job action, but as an exercise of due diligence in the event that job action becomes necessary.

If you wish to become involved in any of the five sub-committees, and we hope that you do, please email the TUCFA office [email protected] and let us know in which area you would like to participate. Your active participation in this preparatory phase is crucial to ensuring we are ready to act if it becomes necessary.

The Police Action of May 9

Weeks prior to the police action of May 9, the Chief of the Calgary Police Service, Mark Neufeld, had been in contact with the University of Calgary regarding the “growing movement of encampments” on Canadian universities. We understand that a committee was established on campus to plan for potential encampments. We do not know when that committee was established, it’s membership, nor its mandate. TUCFA was not informed of its existence, nor was any information provided to TUCFA regarding the University’s planning for possible action by the University or the police.

We believe that the relevant University policy related to the May 9 action was the “Use of University Facilities for Non-Academic Purposes Policy.” The last editorial revision of that policy, which is on the University website, is dated May 3, 2023. Its purpose states:

The purpose of this policy is to outline the terms and conditions of the use of University Facilities for Non-Academic Purposes so that University space is used efficiently and reasonably, in ways consistent with University values and priorities, and in a manner that does not interfere with normal academic activities.

Further, “Prohibited Conduct is defined.

c) “Prohibited Conduct” means: (i) conduct prohibited by law; (ii) conduct that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person or creates in such person a reasonable fear that such a result will occur; (iii) the use of force or violence, actual or threatened; (iv) conduct that threatens or interferes with the maintenance of appropriate order and discipline in the operation of the University, including its academic programs; (v) any conduct that results in damage or defacement of University facilities; (vi) inciting, aiding, or encouraging others to engage in prohibited conduct; and (vii) any conduct that is contrary to University policy or specific university direction.

It appears that the University puts its case for police action on campus upon two pillars, the law of trespass and that policy. Regarding the second ground, President McCauley stated on May 10 that “for safety and operational reasons, temporary structures as part of protests are not permitted.” [emphasis added]

The administration has also claimed that the encampment was a trespass and therefore “Prohibited Conduct” under the policy. On May 10, President McCauley stated that protesters

were informed multiple times this morning and evening of our policy not to permit temporary structures. Members of the campus community are free to protest, but they are not free to camp. [And that] The individuals who set up the encampment were provided a written summary of the university’s policies and procedures and asked to remove their camp. They were issued a trespass notice when they refused to take the structures down . . . . The risk of serious violence is one of the primary reasons overnight protests are not permitted.

We note that in the “Use of University Facilities for Non-Academic Purposes Policy,” as it appears on the U of C website as of June 2, the policy is silent regarding temporary structures and overnight stays. Nor have we seen any evidence that as of 8:00 p.m. on May 9 there were safety issues for those within the camp or outside the camp. Yet that is when the police began their action at a low intensity level to enforce the trespass order. As President McCauley also stated,

At 8:00 p.m., Calgary Police Service began enforcing the university’s trespass order. Their decision to enforce a trespass order was based on an assessment of the risk to public safety as determined through things such as protesters’ actions, communications (including social media monitoring), and analysis.

At approximately 11:00 p.m. roughly 60 people had left the encampment and more people, allegedly “counter-protesters,” came to the encampment. According to Police Chief Neufeld, “Protesters appeared to be ‘deliberately attempting to make physical contact with police’ by grabbing officers’ shields and aggressively pushing them to the ground.” Neufeld stated that the police used 15 pepper balls and 4 oleoresin capsicum (OC) grenades and denied the use of riot gear, tear gas, flash bangs, rubber bullets, and to the best of his knowledge, the use of batons. President McCauley stated on May 10 that “The police reported no injuries.” This last point is contested by the Students’ Union. Four people aged 34, 35, 38, and 61 were arrested. We do not know if any of those people were our members.

What evidence did the police have of a “risk of public safety” from the protestors? We do not know.

What were the alleged “safety” or “operational” reasons referred to by President McCauley that compelled the administration to act with urgency, less than 24 hours after the erection of the encampment? Again, we do not know.

I and our Executive Director met with the University Administration and asked for a copy of the security video footage from May 9, as well as a timeline of events from when the University first became aware of the possibility of protest action on campus up to and including the action. Further, we have asked for a decision tree of who or what group made relevant decisions during that time. The University has, for privacy concerns, denied our request to view or receive a copy of the security footage. We have filed a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for access to the footage. We await to hear if the University will provide us with the other documents.

We have also filed a FOIP request regarding the Calgary Police Service documents related to their action of May 9.

We have similarly been in contact with our Association’s lawyer to better understand our responsibilities to our membership, especially those who might find themselves under some penalty or hardship because of their participation in the protest.

We have received reports from members who have been impacted by the events of May 9. I have met one on one with many of our members who were affected by that event. It has been a very difficult time for many.

What is our way forward?

The Association will continue to seek the video and documentary information necessary to better understand the events leading up to and on May 9. The actions of the administration and the police are rightfully being examined as a matter of course because force was used and what is at issue is the right of our members to academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association as well as other rights and the right of the University to enforce its policies and the responsibility of the police to act reasonably in enforcing the law.

We will continue to seek information to better understand the University’s decisions and its decision-making process leading up to May 9 and the reasons for the escalating actions taken by the police on that day. We will assist the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team in its investigation. We also have been told that the University will be engaging a third party to investigate the administrative actions associated with the May 9 action.

You can assist us by providing the office with the stories of your experiences on May 9, as those will be grist for the ASIRT investigation as it probes the decisions and actions of those involved in the May 9 action.

Our Association is committed to protecting your rights to academic freedom, free expression and association and to protest peacefully at the University of Calgary. Protests have frequently occurred with operational support of the university. This right is however subject to the law and the University’s policies.

We will keep you informed as the investigation and our actions go forward.

Best wishes

Kent Donlevy
The Faculty Association of the University of Calgary

June 2024
1. President’s Message: Bill 18, the Job Action Task Force, and the Police Action on Campus
2. Strikes across Canada
3. 2024 Statistical Summary of Ongoing Academic Staff
4. Sessional Travel Fund Results – Winter 2024
5. Changes to CAUT Dues for 2024-2025
6. Summer 2024 Hours
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