Freedom of speech. Is it a gift, a privilege or a right?
Does it even exist?
In the second event of its kind, UBC Okanagan Debates will host four leading experts from the world of academia, law and media to debate whether the digital age has choked off free speech or empowered it to thrive.
Does mainstream media control whose voice gets heard to maintain their grip on profits and influence? Are secretive social media algorithms limiting those who speak their minds? Or is the digital age supercharging free speech, granting anyone with an internet connection the power to express and influence regardless of their language or geography?
“Freedom of speech is a fascinating, nuanced topic. Who has it, why, and how does today’s world shape how we use it?” says Dr. Lesley Cormack, Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at UBC Okanagan. “What is so exciting about UBC Okanagan Debates is each side has the opportunity to take a firm position and see how persuasive they can be, both in the eyes of the audience and against their fellow debaters. It’s going to be a timely discussion.”
Debating experts include Dr. Greg Garrard, a Professor of Environmental Humanities at UBCO, and Dr. Joel Bakan, a Professor at UBC’s Allard School of Law. Dr. Bakan, a renowned expert in constitutional law, is currently challenging X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, over censorship issues. He and Dr. Garrard stand on the side that free speech is dead. Opposing them will be Dr. Margo Young, a Professor at UBC’s Allard School of Law and Sue Gardner, the former head of cbc.ca and is a special advisor to the Wikimedia Foundation.
“UBC Okanagan Debates is a signature event for our campus,” says Marten Youssef, Associate Vice-President, University Relations. “Civil debates are our response to connecting a polarized world, because we believe that the absence of debate is not harmony, it’s indifference.”
The debate takes place Tuesday, October 24, at the Kelowna Community Theatre beginning at 7 pm. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for UBC alumni and $5 for students. A reception will follow the debate.
This is an in-person debate and will not be livestreamed or available online afterwards.
To purchase tickets or learn more about the event, visit: ok.ubc.ca/debates