Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 9, 2009
Civil Rights League opposes students' trespassing charges
University of Calgary students charged with trespassing over Genocide Awareness Project
BY DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
CALGARY — The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) has protested the trespassing charges laid against pro-life students by the University of Calgary.
The National Post and the Calgary Herald reported Feb. 3 that police officers were visiting the homes of pro-life students to lay trespassing charges for mounting a Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) exhibit last November. Three students so far have been ordered to appear in court Feb. 27.
The GAP exhibit juxtaposed posters of aborted fetuses with victims of the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. The university told the students to turn the posters inward, warning they would be charged with trespassing if they disobeyed. It posted its warnings online at the end of November.
“The principle of free speech is more important than the fact that some people are going to find the posters disturbing,” said League Executive Director Joanne McGarry. “Not everyone is in favour of this kind of imagery, and that includes people who are pro-life.”
“However, universities are publicly-funded institutions and should not be in effect discriminating against one side of a controversial question,” she said.
In a Nov. 26 post, the University of Calgary said it had attempted for several years to find a “reasonable compromise with Campus Pro-Life (CPL) that would give members of the university community the choice to view or not view the Genocide Awareness Project display.”
“These efforts, including requests that CPL turn its display signs inward, have been unsuccessful,” it wrote. “CPL’s statements and actions made it clear that it is not interested in a discussion or debate.”
“Rather, it is seeking publicity and using the media to advance its objectives,” the statement said. “The university will not engage with CPL on this basis.”
According to the National Post, CPL president Leah Hallman called the charges “a blatant attack on free speech.” Hallman told the newspaper the university has displayed prejudice against pro-life groups and noted other groups, such as Falun Gong, have been able to display disturbing photos of victims of torture.
Columnist Ezra Levant has called for University of Calgary alumni to stop sending donations to the university.
“This is not a pro-life vs. pro-choice discussion. That’s irrelevant,” the former publisher of the now defunct Western Standard wrote on his blog www.ezralevant.com Feb. 3.
“This heavy-handed bullying by the U of C would be appalling no matter which side of the debate was being squashed.”