Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 23, 2009
Calgary Campus pro-life group dumped
Student council decertifies group for displaying aborted fetus photos
WCR FILE PHOTO|SARA LOFTSON
U of C pro-life students are shown displaying the Genocide Awareness Project last April in defiance of university orders.
BY LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
CALGARY – The University of Calgary Campus Pro-Life Club has its back against the wall after the university has charged it with trespassing while the students’ council has decertified the club.
The club’s crime? Displaying a poster equating aborted fetuses last November with victims of the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.
A constitutional expert has said the university “has singled out” the 20-member pro-life group for special treatment.
“The university has singled out one group of people with one viewpoint and has told that group that that group cannot freely express its opinions on campus,” said John Carpay, executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation.
Carpay says his foundation takes no position on abortion. “We are pro free speech.” It’s the double standard and lack of free speech on the U of C campus that has his group backing the campus pro-lifers.
“It was only in 2008 that they (the U of C) demanded that the signs be facing inward,” said Carpay.
In “2006 and 2007 the university put up signs maybe 20 to 40 feet away from the pro-life exhibit saying ‘This exhibit is permitted under the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.’
“So that was their position in 2006, 2007. Then they changed it in ’08 without an explanation.”
University officials were not giving any explanations to the WCR either. When contacted by the newspaper, the president’s office referred us to the university’s department of external affairs that refused to comment.
However, Dalmy Baez, president of the U of C Students Union, said the club violated the university’s policy requesting it to turn inward the signs showing pictures of aborted fetuses, the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust.
Baez says the university wrote the policy for the event and it was put in writing in October.
“As far as the Students Union goes, any club that violates university policies, procedures, is up for de-sanctioning.”
Baez said, however, that there is another club at the university and “their message is pro-life and we will be sanctioning them next week.”
The students’ union president says a lot of students found the pro-life display to be disruptive.
“Some students have actually called it irrelevant. I know we had a lot of students coming to the office saying ‘I am pro-life, but this event does not convey the message appropriately.’”
Baez says, “It is very important everyone know this is not a process of trying to infringe on freedom of speech, of limiting the pro-life group of sending their message.
“Regardless of anyone’s message, there is an appropriate way of delivering such a message and Campus Pro Life was not appropriate.”
But Carpay maintained the university has never told the pro-life club what university policy or bylaw it was violating. “It cannot point to any policy or regulation or bylaw or constitutional provision that has been violated.
Members of Campus Pro-Life are to appear in a Calgary courtroom Feb. 27 to face trespassing charges laid by the university.
The members of the club say they are baffled by the university’s aggressive stance.
“For awhile we had a pretty good agreement going with the university,” says Cameron Wilson. There was no point in having the Genocide Awareness Campaign if the signs had to be turned inwards.
A first year history student, Wilson said he thought the university received complaints from students and faculty, and now “we are being hunted down from place to place wherever we go.
Carpay, who has been advising the club, says they are planning to plead not guilty to the trespassing charges and a trial date will be set.
The students union’s Feb. 10 decision to decertify the club means Campus Pro-Life no longer has official club status, cannot book or use meeting rooms, and cannot set up a booth during September for club recruitment. The lack of certification limits their ability to operate on campus, explains Carpay.
Frustrated by the university’s stance, Carpay said, “They say they have been trying to reach a compromise for several years. That is not true and they are not trying to reach a compromise.
“What Campus Pro-Life did in November (with its display) was defy censorship and their reason for defying censorship was that the censorship was discriminatory. The other viewpoint is allowed on campus, but not this one.”