The British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS) has a long history of fighting for, and defending, the rights of students to publicly express themselves on issues that they deem important, as well as to engage in open discourse at their post-secondary institutions. Today, the Federation reaffirms its unequivocal support for students to exercise their right to freedom of expression. The Federation disapproves of any form of retaliation experienced by students exercising their right to protest peacefully on campus, be it academic reprisal, the threat of expulsion, or the threat of police action.

“Civic engagement by students is not up for debate, and neither is the right to safety on campus,” said Jessie Niikoi, Chairperson of the British Columbia Federation of Students. “Student protests are by definition disruptive to the normal operations of institutions, but there is a marked difference between actions that alter the normal activities at our post-secondary institutions, and actions that constitute a safety concern, or public incitement of hatred or violence.” 

The Federation also disapproves of institutions introducing unwarranted security measures, including mandatory ID checks and building lockdowns, in response to “peaceful and calm” student-led protest. The arbitrary use of such measures, currently in use by the Vancouver Island University administration, is an exercise of collective punishment, targeting all students’ ability to access essential student facilities and services. We implore all institutions to refrain from tactics designed to stifle and quash freedom of expression and that escalate the situation on campus under the guise of maintaining order.

“For us the issue is clear: students, student organisations, and the administration at institutions must take a calm, thoughtful and measured approach to student protests, the rights of students to express themselves and campus safety. We must work collaboratively and transparently to ensure non-violent demonstrations on campus are not criminalized,” said Niikoi.

The Federation and student activists across the province have worked for and will continue to work towards ensuring B.C. campuses remain safe, inclusive spaces that encourage dialogue and allow for divergent perspectives to be shared. Racism and hate, including antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian, anti-Indigenous or anti-LGBTQIA2S+ speech or actions, stand counter to the values that strengthen B.C.’s public post-secondary education system.

“The struggle to create inclusive, open, and safe learning environments, while upholding freedom of expression is a challenge that all post-secondary stakeholders must meet head on. Institutions must remember that students and students’ unions care about the same things they do,” said Niikoi. “When administrations engage with students and student organisations as stakeholders in post-secondary institutions, we will get to better outcomes and avoid the harmful situations that we’ve seen in the U.S.”

BC Federation of Students


The BC Federation of Students represents over 170,000 students from 14 institutions across BC. Together these students advocate for affordable + accessible post-secondary education.