At 26 years of age, I should not be that lost first year university student anymore, yet the feeling remains.
I first came to the University of Toronto at the age of 17, and decided to forego my studies to pursue outlandish entrepreneurial dreams. When I was 20, I experienced my first large-scale failure, and fell into a deep depression. I have been through many ordeals since then, but nothing that I couldn’t overcome with perseverance and hard work.
Since returning to university two years ago, I steadily realized I am growing out of touch with my community – or rather, the community at the University of Toronto, and other campuses in North America. Lately, it appears as though some groups only advocate for liberty when it fits their sinister narratives, and will stop at nothing to trample over the liberties of others if they “step out of their lanes”.
Since when did it become taboo to “step out of our lanes”, and critique others? To question authority and provide unique insight?
Many have approached me, asking why I do the work I do, as a student leader and advocate of individual liberties. It’s because I want to be proud of the institution I chose to come to. It’s because I want to make a difference, for a better Canada. It’s because I have seen what taking away individual freedoms can do.
My family has been an advocate of North Korean rights for many years. My parents have personally gone to great lengths to give aid to North Korean refugees in Canada – particularly in the Greater Toronto Area – and I too have spent a good portion of my time volunteering as an interpreter, helping them complete their refugee applications and apply for social assistance.
Knowing how truly oppressed the citizens of North Korea are, it shocks me that anybody would want to take away any individual freedom of others. Without the freedom of speech and expression, we become afraid, because we can never know who among us shares our thoughts, views, and feelings. Suppression of speech is a way to isolate individuals and rule over them with an iron fist, a tactic we’ve seen used by many dictators in history.
Is this the legacy we leave our children? This is not the university I first attended, and I hope it won’t be the university I leave behind. I am determined to start a positive trend of peaceful, open discussion, and Students in Support of Free Speech (SSFS) has been the perfect way. Through it, my co-execs and I have met amazing people, some we agree with, and others we disagree with. However, the one thing we all had in common was our desire to listen, and discuss.