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Canadians support professor's use of offensive language, in context: poll

Last Updated Oct 27, 2020 at 2:39 pm MDT

The University of Ottawa campus is shown on Wednesday, April 22, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada's auditor general is calling for the federal government to step up its recovery of outstanding student loans to keep taxpayers from being left on the hook. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA — A new survey suggests Canadians are broadly supportive of freedom of speech on university campuses, at all costs.

The poll comes as debate continues over a case at the University of Ottawa involving a professor who used a racist word as part of a class discussion on how some communities had reclaimed terms.

WATCH: Controversy over professor’s use of N-word in class


The professor was later suspended and has apologized but the issue continues to be debated in the public sphere.

The survey from Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found 75 per cent of respondents agreed that freedom of expression at universities must be protected to allow for the exchange of ideas, including the use of certain culturally insensitive words if meant to stimulate discussion.


Fifty-seven per cent of those surveyed supported a professor using those words in the appropriate context, while 26 per cent were supportive of the students who had protested the fact the word was used.

The survey of 1,523 Canadians was carried out online between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not totally random.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press