GSA President: Rescind Bill 18, Protect Academic Freedom

3 May 2024

Dear graduate students, esteemed faculty, and members of the academic community. Today, we stand before you as passionate advocates for academic freedom and the pursuit of knowledge. Our institution, the University of Alberta, has long been a beacon of intellectual curiosity, and innovative research. But we find ourselves at a crossroads—a moment when our cherished principles are under direct attack.

Bill 18, looms over us, is a piece of legislation that targets the very essence of academic freedom. 

The University of Alberta receives a staggering $223 million in total federal research funding, constituting a third of our research revenue budget. This funding is not just numbers on a balance sheet; it fuels groundbreaking discoveries, empowers our researchers, and drives progress in fields ranging from medicine to engineering to social sciences. It is the lifeblood of our academic ecosystem. This bill threatens the very grants that sustain our research endeavors. Tri-Council grants—the bedrock of our scholarly pursuits—are at risk. But it doesn’t stop there. The New Frontiers in Research Fund and the Canadian Foundation for Innovations—all vital arteries of innovation—are also in the crosshairs. Federal funding isn’t just about test tubes and lab coats. It supports professional development, job skills, and even French language education at our Campus Saint-Jean. These investments nurture well-rounded scholars who contribute not only to academia but also to the broader community. Frankly speaking, Bill 18 is a direct attack on the growth of Alberta itself. It undermines the very goals the provincial government claims to champion. By adding bureaucratic layers and restricting access to federal funds, we risk stifling innovation, driving away top researchers, and compromising our position as one of Canada’s top five research institutes.

As graduate students, we have witnessed the struggle. Over 20 years of stagnation gave way to a glimmer of hope—an increase in Tri-Council funding. But now, we face a politicized agenda that threatens to starve us of the resources we deserve. We’re being bullied into aligning our research with the “priorities” of the provincial government. This is not the path of passion; it’s the path of coercion.

Our plea to the government is simple: rescind Bill 18.Let's engage in genuine democratic consultation with all graduate students’ associations across Alberta. Let us remove the barriers that hinder our pursuit of exciting and novel research. Let us safeguard academic freedom—the very soul of our university.

Thank you, and may the flame of knowledge continue to burn brightly within these hallowed walls.

Note: This statement will also be shared with media outlets in an effort to raise awareness about the potential impact of Bill 18.

The GSA is actively engaged in discussions with various stakeholders to explore mitigation strategies and ensure continued support for our graduate student community during this critical time. We will continue to update the GSA website and social media channels with the latest information on Bill 18 and its implications.