2nd suspension by Laval University for comments about vaccines

Professor Patrick Provost has been suspended for the second time by Laval University for controversial statements about anti-COVID vaccines, a decision that Quebec recently called on university leaders to enjoin “censorship that impedes academic freedom.”

Mr. Provost, a professor in the department of microbiology-infectiology and immunology at Laval University, was suspended without pay for four months, more than double the initial suspension imposed in June for similar reasons. .

This time there were comments broadcast on CHOI 98.1 FM, the source of the sanction. This RNA expert reiterated his opposition to vaccinating children against COVID, questioning its effectiveness and benefits, which contradicts the scientific consensus on the matter.

A few days later, an auditor filed a complaint through the Université Laval website, triggering a new disciplinary process.

On January 23, the professor was informed of his suspension without pay for four months starting from the same day. Management told him that any repeat violations could result in dismissal, Mr. Provost said.

The Union of Professors of Laval University, which filed a complaint on Wednesday to challenge this decision, is protesting again. However, one of his spokesmen could not be reached at the time of writing.

Laval University accuses Patrick Provost of violating the principles outlined in its policy of responsible conduct in research, according to the corresponding director, who argues that the interpretation is considered too broad.

“They interpret my radio appearances as part of my research activities or teaching duties. But I did not present my research results, I carried out my critical thinking on certain aspects of society related to the science I managed to master. My academic freedom is at stake,” says Mr. Provost.

For its part, Laval University management says it cannot directly comment on the situation as the employee’s personal work is confidential.

Its spokeswoman Andrée-Anne Stewart assures that “anyone at Laval University can conduct research questioning vaccination, speak openly about vaccination, and express an opinion on the subject.”

  • Listen to his interview with Richard Martineau’s microphone QUB-radio :

This decision is related to the adoption of the law on respect for academic freedom in universities last June.

The legislation states that the professor has the right to “express his opinion about the society and the institution, including the institution to which the person belongs, as well as about any doctrine, doctrine or opinion.”

For its part, Université Laval notes that this right “must be exercised in accordance with the standards of ethics and scientific rigor generally accepted by the university community and with due regard for the rights of other members of the university community.”

In early January, the new Minister of Higher Education, Pascale Déry, also sent a “clarification” to university leaders, worried about a possible “slippage” regarding respect for academic freedom. In this mission, he especially reminds that there is no place for “censorship” in universities.

Last June, the first suspension of Mr. Provost was also challenged by the Union of Laval University Professors through a complaint.

This decision was strongly condemned by the Federation of Quebec University Professors (FQPPU), which invited Laval University to “correct the situation” in this regard.

The first sanction applied to this professor after the FQPPU analyzed the file was that he did not respect the law on academic freedom in the university environment.

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