Youth Protecting Youth

Defending the Dignity of All Human Life


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LALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!

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


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Summary of YPY Controversy: 2008 – 2010

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.

Spring 2008

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.

Summer 2008

Youth Protecting Youth applied for, and was granted club status and funding.

Fall 2008

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).

Spring 2009

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.

Fall 2009

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.

Spring 2010

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):

Poster 1

Poster 2

Poster 3


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University of Victoria Pro-life Club, Youth Protecting Youth, Stages a Free Speech Protest

On Tuesday, March 2nd, University of Victoria pro-life club, Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), will be holding a free speech protest. The protest will take place from 11:30 to 1:30 outside of the Student Union Building at the University of Victoria (UVic).

The students will be protesting the fact that club funding has been withheld from them for four semesters in the past two years. This semester, after heated discussion, a motion was passed to deny them club status. The club attempted to call a Special General Meeting of undergraduate students to appeal this decision, but their request was denied by the UVic Students’ Society Board of Directors (UVSS).

This semester, YPY once again put up posters from an organization called Feminists for Life. These posters have sparked controversy in the past, and have led to YPY’s current denial of status and funding. The club, however, maintains that while the posters may be controversial, they do not constitute harassment, as has been alleged. Thus, they do not merit the removal of club status and funding.

The message YPY hopes to send is that their right to free speech is being infringed upon.

“In a society with true freedom of speech, people are going to be offended sometimes,” says Anastasia Pearse, president of YPY. “Just because some people disagree with or are offended by a message does not mean it constitutes harassment or is worthy of censorship.”

YPY members believe their message is of utmost importance: if what they say is true, hundreds of innocent human beings are being killed every day in our country. The club seeks to uphold the dignity of all human beings, from the earliest stages of life onwards – including, of course, pregnant women. The posters that have caused so much controversy advocate for better support for pregnant women and mothers in difficult situations.

The university should be a place for open and respectful discussion. This discussion is halted when one side is reprimanded for expressing their views. Through their censorship of YPY, the UVSS is sending a clear message that freedom of expression does not extend to students with unpopular or controversial views.

Links to the posters used by YPY:

Poster 1

Poster 2


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YPY’s Message of Protest

YPY protests against unequal treatment, censorship and discrimination on the basis of belief today. Our voices are being silenced, as are the voices of the unborn. This is our message to the campus and community:

We are Youth Protecting Youth, a group of pro-life students from the University of Victoria who are being censored.

This is the fourth semester in the past two years that we have been denied club funding.

This semester we were also denied club status.

The Canadian Federation of Students has stated that they will support “member locals that refused to allow anti-choice organizations access to their resources and space.”

The UVic Students’ Society is acting on this discriminatory statement and sending a clear message that UVic is no place for students who hold differing beliefs.


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Support from the BCCLA

It’s March 2nd, and Youth Protecting Youth is still being denied its right to freedom of speech. We respond today by staging a peaceful protest at UVic. See the following documents for more information about the censorship applied to YPY.

These statements by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association reflect the position they held when our funding was taken away. Our status has since been revoked as well in an escalation of suppression.

BCCLA demands equal treatment for U Vic pro-life club

The BCCLA also demonstrated their support for Youth Protecting Youth’s free speech with this letter:

Letter to the University of Victoria Student Society


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YPY Attends OD

Today, Youth Protecting Youth attended a meeting of the Organizational Development (OD) Committee that has been tasked with making changes to clubs policy.

On February 8th, the UVic Students’ Society (UVSS) Board of Directors revoked YPY’s status until this OD Committee presents policy changes to the Board which will then decide whether or not to grant status to YPY. In the same motion, the Board revoked funding for one year. The original motion would have applied an exclusive policy to YPY, but it was amended to make all clubs subject to OD’s policy changes.

We attempted to appeal this decision (as described in the last post) because it restricts our members’ freedom of expression by denying them funding and recognition based on their beliefs. Indeed, the OD process was initiated as a result of bogus accusations of harassment and hate-speech. We maintain that we have been wronged.

However, the UVSS decided that their clubs policy needs to be changed, and YPY supports the idea of providing a more specific, non-discriminatory policy that can be applied to all clubs. We attended the OD meeting today in that spirit, and may continue to do so. Regrettably, YPY’s status depends on the committee’s outcome, and many committee members intend to insert specific clauses in policy that would address pro-life groups in particular.

The UVSS’ decision to penalize YPY is still absolutely unwarranted, and the OD process is in danger of becoming an investigation into how to silence pro-life on campus completely.


YPY Denied Request for SGM

At the UVSS meeting on February 22nd, Youth Protecting Youth was denied its appeal of the UVSS’  decision to withdraw funding and status pending the result of an Organizational Development Committee, and was denied its request for a Special General Meeting to allow students to vote on the issue.

Watch for further developments and background information about YPY’s free speech battle from YPY’s official blog.


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Maclean’s and Other Publications Feature YPY`s Free Speech Battle

Erin Millar from Maclean’s is keeping her readers up to date on YPY’s free speech struggles with these articles:

UVic student union revokes club status of pro-life club

UVic\’s pro-choicers up the ante against pro-life club

Closed for debate

The Times Colonist featured YPY in early February:

UVic pro-life group states its case to get funding back – Freedom of Speech

So did The Vancouver Sun:

Civil Liberties group against silencing of UVic pro-lifers

The Martlet, UVic’s weekly student newspaper, has published numerous articles about YPY. This article is one of the most recent:

Debate over YPY will see UVSS create “Conditions of Club Status” policy

David Foster has been diligent in documenting the UVSS’ actions against YPY in his student politics blog, Eye on the UVSS:

UVSS vs YPY: No End in Sight

Lastly, the controversy that has surrounded the UVSS and YPY is discussed colorfully in the most recent edition of The Fish Wrap, a publication from the University of Victoria’s Engineering Students’ Society. Copies can be found in the ELW.

UVic pro-life group states its case to get funding back

Freedom of Speech