You may remember that on October 4, 2010, pro-life students at Carleton University were arrested while trying to set up the Genocide Awareness Project display on their campus, and charged with trespassing. Video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeJkBQn1-r8
Carleton Lifeline has just announced that the trespass charges have been dropped. Their press release can be found here:
We congratulate the members of Carleton Lifeline for their continued courage and perseverance, and are thankful that these unfounded charges have been dropped.
Five students, four from Carleton University, and one from Queen’s University, were arrested this week and charged with trespassing after attempting to display a peaceful pro-life protest in a public area on the Carleton university campus. Once again, the truth of the pro-life message is being silenced, this time by the university administration. The press release below comes from the National Campus Life Network, and includes a link to video footage of the arrests. In the past, Youth Protecting Youth has also had issues with freedom of speech and the University of Victoria Students Society, though these issues were not with the university administration and the issues were dealt with this past summer through legal action. Although it is extremely upsetting that students can be arrested for a peaceful protest on a university campus, the greater tragedy is that preborn children are still being killed through the act of abortion everyday, and that this process is still legal in Canada through all 9 months of a pregnancy.
CARLETON UNIVERSITY CONTINUES TO BULLY STUDENTS
Carleton Communicates Misleading Statements to Public
October 6, 2010. Ottawa. One day after Carleton University had Ottawa police arrest 5 students for attempting to peacefully express their views on abortion, a flurry of reports raise questions about whether the students are demanding something not allowed of other students. Footage can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeJkBQn1-r8
University representatives have been reported as stating that no students are allowed to set up displays in the Quad, the area that the pro-life students selected for their signs.
Ruth Lobo, President of Carleton Lifeline, and one of the students arrested, responded: “The university is misleading the public by making it seem as though we are demanding special treatment instead of equal treatment, but that’s not true.”
She explained that their booking request was made several months ago and at no point between then and now did the university communicate to the students, or their lawyer, that the Tory Quad is not bookable space for students.
“Why is the University now claiming the Quad is not bookable space?” asked James Shaw, club Vice President. “We have done extensive research on the policies of the university and see no evidence of their claims that the space isn’t bookable. In fact, we see the opposite. If, as they’re now claiming, the Quad is not bookable, we should have been told in the summer when we were filling out the application form. That would have been a very simple answer to give, and a much easier one.”
According to the Booking-Space-On-Campus Policy, Tory Quad is listed as bookable space for recognized student groups, which includes Carleton Lifeline. Further, the policy does not place restrictions on display size or content.
According to David Sterritt, who is the Head of Housing and Conference Services at Carleton, the reason for denying the use of the Quad was based on content. On August 9, 2010, Sterritt wrote the club,
“While we wish to provide your group with an opportunity to express itself freely on this matter, we are also aware that The Genocide Awareness Project uses promotional materials which are disturbing and offensive to some. To this end, we are prepared to offer your group the use of Porter Hall.”
Porter Hall is a closed room on campus that few students pass by and many are even unaware of its location.
“It’s clear by their direct communication to us,” said Lobo, “that this is content-based discrimination. This censorship should concern everyone, regardless of one’s views on abortion.”
Shaw added, “First the university has us arrested for peacefully exercising our academic freedom and free speech rights. And now they’re coming up with excuses for their bad behaviour that they never communicated to us. Shame on Carleton.”
Carleton Lifeline continues to stress that the right to free speech does not exist so much as to maintain mainstream views but more so to protect unpopular opinions like theirs, especially on a university campus.
Lobo said she finds it appalling the university would “mislead the public by making the arrest look like we violated university policy instead of what it really was: that Carleton censors opinions on campus thereby violating their own policy of academic freedom.”
Below is Carleton University’s Human Rights Policies and Procedures- relevant section is Part 1 General Article 4:
Below is Carleton University’s Booking-Space-On-Campus Policy- Relevant sections are Section 1 and Appedix A.:
VICTORIA, BC – After two and a half months of consultation, the legal conflict between the University of Victoria’s pro-life club, Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), and the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) has come to a conclusion.
The legal conflict was the result of two years of discrimination and censorship, during which YPY was repeatedly denied funding that other clubs received. The situation escalated in the spring of 2010, when the UVSS refused to recognize YPY as a club, and made policy modifications that specifically targeted pro-life advocacy. YPY responded by filing a petition in the BC Supreme Court.
The case has now been settled out of court: the UVSS has recognized YPY as a club, granted it funding for the summer semester, repaid all funds wrongly withheld since fall 2008, and eliminated policy additions that had targeted pro-life advocacy. Having watched other pro-life groups face discrimination and censorship, YPY welcomes these developments that recognize the right to free speech at UVic.
“This is a great victory for YPY,” says club president Anastasia Pearse. “We interpret the UVSS’ concessions as an admission of wrongdoing, and we’re happy with the new direction it’s taking.”
The UVSS has also agreed to an unusual condition that allows YPY to hold the petition in abeyance indefinitely, making the process required to reinitiate legal proceedings quicker and easier, should it become necessary – a circumstance that YPY would view as regrettable. It is hoped that holding the UVSS immediately accountable will curb censorial behaviour.
Despite the free speech challenges it has faced recently, YPY remains focused on advocating for the right to life of all human beings at all stages of life, and will continue to boldly exercise its freedom of speech in proclaiming this message.
The club sincerely thanks Joseph Arvay of Arvay Finlay Barristers – who represented YPY – for his exceptional legal representation.
YPY is pleased that the BC Civil Liberties Association, which has generously acted in support of the club’s free speech, has been granted intervener status in the lawsuit, and will be intervening should the lawsuit need to be revived under the abeyance agreement.
As of this writing, Youth Protecting Youth and the University of Victoria Students’ Society’s engaging in legal conflict has failed to reach a final conclusion. The UVSS Board of Directors has voted to remove new anti-pro-life clauses from its policy (changes to its Harassment Policy had discriminated against pro-life advocacy) and grant status, funding and retroactive monies to YPY. Although these measures address some of the requests made in the petition to the BC Supreme Court, two key points remain unresolved: The UVSS hasn’t declared the action it has taken against YPY in the past to be unlawful, and the UVSS hasn’t promised that YPY’s behaving as it has so far will prevent it from being silenced again.
The UVSS must take steps – in a spirit of true reparation – to ensure that it will act consistently and fairly in the future. At present, we fear that there are no guarantees that the students’ society won’t discriminate against pro-life students in semesters to come.
YPY remains in legal consultation at present, reasonably seeking to secure lasting protection from censorship and discrimination against its members and its message.
VICTORIA, B.C., May 3, 2010 ‑ Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), the University of Victoria pro‑life students’ club, today filed a petition in the BC Supreme Court initiating legal proceedings against the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS).
The lawsuit seeks various court orders all to the effect that the UVSS has acted unlawfully in denying YPY club funding since September 2008, and recently upped the ante by refusing to ratify YPY as an official club for the Spring 2010 semester. In addition, the Clubs Policy has now been amended to specifically target pro‑life advocacy.
University of Victoria student, UVSS member, and YPY president, Anastasia Pearse commented:
“We have watched pro‑life student groups throughout the province, and across the country, face the stifling and discriminatory decisions of Student Societies that deny them funding or club status.
Our aims are to promote choices that protect unborn human beings and their mothers from the harm of abortion. We should be granted equal opportunity to share our message.”
The students involved with YPY are members of the University community, which is the very place where controversial topics should be discussed and various sides considered. They recognize that it is their duty to stand up to protect the core value of ideological diversity and the fundamental values at stake in this case including equality and freedom of expression.
The controversy that has sprung up in the media around Prime Minister Harper’s recent announcement that Canada will not fund abortions as part of its G8 child and maternal health‑care initiative for developing countries demonstrates that abortion is still a live issue for debate. Pearse highlights, “To debate is to engage with opposing ideas and in order to fully engage, we must be free to express opposing views respectfully without censure.”
Joseph Arvay of the Vancouver based firm Arvay Finlay is acting for Youth Protecting Youth.
Clubs at UVic receive a small sum of money each semester to support their activities. The University of Victoria Students’ Society has denied us this funding – that every other club receives – for the past two years on the grounds that putting up a few small, non-graphic posters that challenge the morality of abortion (first and second posters used) constitutes harassment of students. This semester, the UVSS revoked club status entirely, pending a modification of clubs policy, because we continued to put up the posters in addition to holding a very well-attended debate. We protested against such unfair treatment.
In the last week of this semester, we were offered club status. However, the catch is we will eventually have to sign policy that would prevent us from voicing some central pro-life beliefs. This is an act of outright censorship initiated by our ideological opponents. Note Part F – Harassment of the new Clubs Policy: Amended Apr 2010.
I find it interesting, although not entirely surprising, how often events in university student politics call to mind the work of George Orwell. Maybe it started back when board members asserted that no one was discriminating against YPY because of our beliefs: after all, we still had club status, our funding had just been denied (at that point without even pretending to follow the Harassment Policy) – can anyone say “All clubs are equal, but some clubs are more equal than others”? Recently, I’ve had the urge to refer to the UVSS Organizational Development Committee meetings to change Clubs Harassment Policy as the Ministry of Truth. Their changes to the policy have made it less about preventing actual harassment, and more about preventing people from saying anything that those in charge think is politically incorrect or offensive.
“The enemies of intellectual liberty always try to present their case as a plea for discipline versus individualism. The issue truth-versus-untruth is as far as possible kept in the background.” – George Orwell in “The Prevention of Literature”, Polemic (January, 1946)
This is what I keep hearing over and over again at UVic and in Canada as a whole. We’re told that of course, there should be freedom of speech, but there have to be limits. And those limits turn into attempts to prevent people from saying anything that might, maybe, offend somebody. That kind of thinking is what has so damaged the credibility of Canada’s Human Rights Commissions (see Ezra Levant’s Shakedown).
This kind of thinking is why YPY is told not that what we say is wrong, but simply that we aren’t allowed to say it. In the fall, we were told the issue of abortion was not up for debate. That makes no sense given the significant numbers of people holding opposing views on the topic. But some people at UVic don’t want to talk about it (or hear about it), so apparently the debate doesn’t exist. This brings to mind the image of a small child with her hands over her ears screaming “LALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” when someone says something she doesn’t like.
After our free speech protest, someone made a comment suggesting that we shouldn’t have had signs saying “Abortion ends a human life” and “Some choices are wrong”, essentially because such statements upset people. Excuse me? The signs’ statements are objectively true. If we want an intellectually healthy society, we can’t allow the potential emotional impact of something to become more important than whether or not it’s true.
“If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.” – George Orwell in “Freedom of the Park”, Tribune (December, 1945)
Pro-life activists fit rather well into the category of “inconvenient minorities” in Canada. And their (our) free speech is being taken away, even though the law should be protecting it. Recent events at the University of British Columbia show this all too clearly. Free speech means free speech for everyone. Things would have been dandy at UBC if the pro-life and pro-choice groups had stayed within their booked display areas and allowed one another’s messages to be heard. Instead, a group who could perhaps be described as anti-pro-life stood in front of Lifeline’s display and shouted uncreative slogans. The right to speak freely and express one’s beliefs does not extend to actively censoring the speech of others.
The chanting/yelling/screaming censorship is nothing new – it happened at St. Mary’s in Halifax, and then it happened at McGill (where the pro-life club just got their club status back, but only after agreeing to all sorts of conditions about what they are and aren’t allowed to say). My issue with this tactic is this: it does nothing to present an argument as to why the protestors believe the things the pro-life side is saying are wrong, and simply brings back that image of the little child going “LALALALA NOT LISTENING! AND I’M GONNA BE SO LOUD NO ONE ELSE CAN HEAR YOU EITHER!”
We need to defend and uphold our right to express our beliefs in the face of opposition. We need to be able to tell the world that abortion kills human beings, and we can’t let those who don’t like that message shut us up.
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” – George Orwell in the Preface to Animal Farm
Since September 2008, the UVic Students’ Society (UVSS) board has openly and systematically discriminated against us members of Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) because of our beliefs.
Youth Protecting Youth did a poster campaign (links to posters found below). It was through the Martlet that YPY first found out that some people were offended by the posters. There was no mention of harassment, intimidation, violence, or hate speech, and no formal complaints were made against YPY for posting the posters.
Youth Protecting Youth applied for, and was granted club status and funding.
At the first Clubs Council meeting, on 23 September 2008, it was alleged that YPY was not eligible for funding because it was against abortion, and therefore contravened UVSS policy. YPY was given no notice that such a claim would be made against it. The UVSS Director of Services misrepresented Clubs Council policy by permitting the complaints to be made– there is no policy that states clubs must comply with UVSS policy. As a result, Clubs Council voted to deny funding to YPY.
YPY appealed this decision at the following board meeting on October 6th. The UVSS Director of Services argued that the board should not reverse a decision by Clubs Council. The board remitted the question to Clubs Council for reconsideration.
The UVSS Director of Services chaired the October 21st Clubs Council meeting. She permitted fabricated complaints of harassment and discrimination to be made against YPY, even though YPY had not been given the notice required by Clubs Council policy. Representatives from Students for Choice (SfC) accused YPY of promoting violence through its poster campaign. A UVSS director later admitted that YPY was not given the opportunity to defend itself against these accusations. Contrary to UVSS policy, no investigation of the fabricated complaints was undertaken. Clubs Council again voted to deny YPY funding.
On November 3rd, YPY again appealed to the board. The board allowed a repetition of the fabricated complaints against YPY. Four directors affirmed the fabrications, stating that the posters were a form of hate speech, and were threatening and intimidating. Other directors argued that the board should not reverse a Clubs Council decision. The board affirmed the denial of funding.
In November 2008, YPY once again did a poster campaign, this time posting two of the original posters (see poster links below).
On 10 February 2009, Clubs Council voted to fund YPY. The question had been deferred from a previous meeting, ostensibly to permit attendance of all interested parties and encourage informed decision making. Without having given notice to YPY, the board reversed the decision at their meeting on February 23rd, claiming that the Clubs Council meeting was not procedurally sound, the board should uphold its pro-choice policy and deny funding to an “anti-choice” club, and women once again had complained about the posters. Directors who had previously insisted that the board should not overturn Clubs Council decisions now argued that it should do so.
On March 23rd, the board chairperson arranged for a presentation to the board by a SfC and Women’s Studies representative without informing YPY. With YPY unrepresented, the representative repeated and embellished the fabricated charges of discrimination and harassment.
At a board meeting on 6 April 2009, YPY appealed the reversal of the Clubs Council decision. The board again allowed the SfC and Women’s Studies representative to repeat fabricated claims. The board refused to permit discussion or rebuttal of these claims or consider arguments against its decision, proceeding to affirm denial of funding in an anonymous vote.
Clubs Council approved status and funding for YPY at a meeting on 29 September 2009. Those opposed to funding claimed that YPY was supporting racism and anti-Semitism because the club was bringing Stephanie Gray of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform to the campus for a debate about abortion.
On 5 October 2009, the UVSS board rejected Clubs Council’s recommendation and refused to approve funding for YPY. Speakers repeated fabricated charges that the club was engaging in harassment and encouraging a hostile and intimidating environment for women. The UVSS board refused funding because it objected to YPY’s plans to host a debate about abortion.
On October 21st, UVic Professor Eike Kluge debated Stephanie Gray. Almost 400 students attended the debate.
At the board meeting on November 16th, YPY appealed the board’s decision to deny it funding. The board once again refused to grant funding.
In January 2010, YPY posted the two posters used in fall 2008. At the Clubs Council meeting, three letters were read out, each requesting that YPY be denied status, and using the debate and posters as reasons to deny status. Clubs Council voted to refer the decision of denying status for the semester and funding for a year to the UVSS board.
On February 5th, the Martlet hosted a debate on whether or not YPY should receive funding. Students were given the opportunity to come out and hear both sides of the debate, with Joyce Arthur from the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada speaking alongside SfC, and John Dixon from the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) speaking alongside YPY.
On February 8th, the board voted to deny YPY funding for a year, and deny status until an organizational development committee meets and decides on a new policy that YPY and all clubs would have to abide by.
After this meeting, YPY requested that the board grant it a special general meeting. A motion was made at the February 22nd board meeting to grant this request, but was voted down.
Posters used by YPY (The third was posted in spring 2008 only):