All Posts Tagged With: "pro-life"
What students are talking about today (February 8th)
1. The Gazette student newspaper at Western University published an editorial this week on a new Harry Potter course that will be offered this fall. They came to the conclusion that it will not be a bird course. “Some may say authors such as Shakespeare, Hemingway and Joyce provide the reader with a much deeper, denser text…. while Harry Potter’s journey through Hogwarts is just too simplistic.” But they added, “Who’s to say there is not deeper meaning in Harry Potter? With adult themes such as challenging authority, self-sacrifice, tolerance and genocide, these books following the Boy who Lived should not be pushed aside as ‘just for children.’” However, proving that many students still need to improve their basic reading skills, the paper faced a backlash from those who took the headline “Harry Potter and the Bird Course?” to mean “Harry Potter is a bird course.” Editor Gloria Dickie responded with a second editorial reiterating that the editorial board does not see it as a bird course.
University defends controversial campus conference
This post first appeared on Michael Petrou’s The World Desk blog on Macleans.ca.
My article about a conference at Carleton University honouring Iran’s founding dictator Ayatollah Khomeini prompted a condemnatory letter from several prominent Iranian scholars to Carleton President Roseann O’Reilly Runte, as well as responsive missives from O’Reilly Runte and from John Osborne, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
I’ve reprinted the exchanges below. Tracking the dates and salutations, it looks possible that I’m missing one of the letters. If so, its absence here is unintentional. I have also deleted email addresses and phone numbers that appeared in the email address lines, and have added the full name of recipients where they were otherwise abbreviated. Everything else is posted here verbatim.
A good chunk of the debate centres on free speech. Osborne casts himself as a defender of the principle. “It is my duty as a scholar to vehemently oppose any attempts to restrict freedom of speech, and I shall do so until my dying breath,” he writes.
As it happens, I’m a free speech fundamentalist. If Carleton students want to hold a conference praising a murderous advocate of child rape, and if the university is content to host and promote the event, that’s their right. (Under Khomeini, Iran lowered the age when a girl could be “married” to nine; and the old man himself wrote that it was permissible to receive sexual pleasure from babies.)
UNB ratifies pro-lifers as Carleton considers ban
There was good news and bad news this week for pro-life groups on Canadian campuses.
The University of New Brunswick Student Union has ratified the Students for Life Club, reports The Brunswickan. Amanda Magee, club president, told council that her group wants to have an open debate about abortion. They will provide information booths, but will not be seek out women directly.
Meanwhile, the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) has decided it will let the following referendum question stand in the next general election: “Are you in favor of banning groups such as Lifeline, the Genocide Awareness Project, Campaign for Life Coalition and other organizations that use inaccurate information and violent images to discourage women from exploring all options in the event of pregnancy from Carleton University?”
Pro-life groups have been controversial at the Ottawa school. The club Carleton Lifeline was decertified by CUSA after five pro-life students were arrested on campus for attempting to erect a graphic display in 2010 called the Genocide Awareness Project, which showed pictures of fetuses.
Brandon Wallingford, the CUSA Arts and Social Sciences Councillor, was quoted in a press release by Carleton Lifeline yesterday saying that the referendum question infringes on freedom of speech. “It is disturbing that there are those who wish to ban opposing points of view instead of engaging in the type of mature discussion that universities used to be famous for,” he said.
Film compares abortion to holocaust
Students at the University of Western Ontario are upset that they were handed DVDs in the University Community Centre on Wednesday. The film, by Living Waters Ministry, “uses a discussion of the holocaust as a segue to promote a pro-life agenda” reports The Gazette.
Devin Barnes, a fourth-year philosophy student, said he was not happy about his gift from the pro-life strangers: “the pro-life people obviously have the right to their opinion, but this was coercion.”
Eliot Hong, from the University Students’ Council, said they require that such handouts be approved ahead of time. ”This is to ensure that groups are following the Advertising Materials Policy and are in line with the University’s environment of providing a safe, supportive campus while being sensitive to the diverse student, staff, and faculty population that are a part of Western,” said Hong.
The Christian Post, a U.S. publication, reports that “a small army of one thousand workers gave away 200,000 copies of the award-winning movie “180″ at 100 top universities around the country, in one day this week. To avoid opposition, the day and the location of each of the universities were a highly-guarded secret. The controversial pro-life video shows eight people who are adamantly pro-abortion, changing their minds and becoming pro-life in a matter of seconds…”
It’s not clear whether the group at Western was part of this particular effort, but 180 does open with scenes from NAZI Germany and a man asking students whether they’ve heard of Adolf Hitler.
Catholic school students suspended for pro-choice message
It seems the crackdown on dissenting ideology continues at Catholic high schools in Ontario. Two months ago, the Halton board made headlines for banning gay-straight alliances in its publicly funded schools. Now, St. Patrick High School in Thunder Bay, Ontario, has decided that its students cannot express pro-choice opinions. Because the best type of public education is an exclusionary and highly ideological public education, right?
Grade 10 student Alexandria Szeglet was sent home from school last week for wearing a green strip of tape with the word “Choice” on her uniform. That day, the school was holding a pro-life event where some students wore red pieces of tape with the word “Life” written on them. As Szeglet began handing out her green strips to fellow students, she was told to remove the tape or go home. Smartly, she chose the latter.
Still, other students carried on the message, and according to reports, as many as 100 students were sent home. John de Faveri, Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board director disputed those numbers, while still adding, “On the issue, pro-life is part of the Catholic stand. The pro-choice students were not appropriate in the context of a Catholic school.”
As the news of the incident spread, the school board’s position seemed to shift.
“It wasn’t anything about what the students were trying to say; it was the inappropriate way they went about it,” de Faveri told the Globe and Mail. “They didn’t get approval from the school. They didn’t do anything of the sort.”
Pardon my lack of faith, but when the issue of gay-straight alliances came to the Halton Catholic board, chair Alice Anne LeMay said that students would be denied a request for a GSA even if they sought approval from the school. “It’s not in accordance with the teachings of the church,” she said.
Similarly, I’m skeptical that Szeglet and her friends would have been permitted to express their pro-choice positions, even if they had asked permission from the school beforehand. Let’s not kid ourselves; the issue is not that these students defiantly defaced their uniforms with strips of illicit green material without permission, it’s that they expressed a position fundamentally opposed to the teachings of the church.
The bitsy snag is here is that St. Patrick is a public school, funded by public dollars. Yet somehow, administrators feel compelled to stifle free expression. I don’t think I need to explain the dissonance here.
It’s bad enough that taxpayers in Ontario are footing the bill for only one type of religious education (when really, they should be funding none), but it becomes intolerable when that education is restrictive and exclusionary. Disallowing students to form positive alliances or express their opinions openly exemplifies just that. At an age where students should be encouraged to think critically, schools shouldn’t be the ones to shut down the debate.
Anti-abortion group that was arrested for trespassing is seeking $225,000
A Carleton anti-abortion group is suing the university for $225, 000 over allegations of discrimination. Last October, members of Carleton Lifeline were arrested after they displayed graphic images of aborted fetuses in the university’s busy Tory Quad. The university had declined a request to set up the display in the Quad, and, instead offered the group alternate space. When Carleton Lifeline ignored the university and set up the display in the Quad anyway, several group members were charged with trespassing.
“Carleton University’s decision to have Carleton Lifeline arrested, charged with trespassing and fined was excessive, unjustified and constituted an attempt to bully, intimidate and censor them,” the statement of claim filed by group members Ruth Lobo and John McLeod reads. The students’ statement of claim challenges the university’s reasoning for denying them space, pointing to graphic displays by animal rights activists and those who organize Holocaust awareness events. “Carleton University sought to censor Carleton Lifeline on the basis of their message and not their medium,” the claim states.
In a written statement, cited in the Ottawa Citizen, Carleton plans to “defend itself vigorously against the claim.” The university added that, “Carleton remains a marketplace of ideas, a place where members of the community can debate and discuss a full range of issues and ideas.”
Photo: Ottawa police arresting Carleton Lifeline members in October, courtesy of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform
YPY accused of violating harassment policy
University of Victoria’s pro-life club has been censured over its advertising for a talk given in October. At a meeting of the student society’s board on Monday, the group was criticized for posters that promoted a talk titled “Echoes of the Holocaust.”
A number of complaints had been made to the students’ union alleging the posters violated harassment policies. According to the Martlet, student society chairperson James Coccola stressed that the vote of censure was not related to the talk itself. “This is simply about how the event was marketed,” he said. The board also voted to pursue mediation to resolve the conflict and to host a restorative justice event.
Anastasia Pearse, president of the group Youth Protecting Youth, was unapologetic. “We understand that some women have been upset by seeing our posters. We understand that they feel that way. But just because they’ve seen something they dislike does not mean that they’re being harassed,” she said.
Carleton student union upholds decision to ban anti-abortion group
The Carleton University Students Association (CUSA) has decided to uphold its judgment that Carleton Lifeline, an anti-abortion club on campus, is unworthy of group status.
CUSA threatened to strip the group of its status back in November, alleging that the club violated CUSA’s anti-discrimination policy. The policy states that “any campaign, distribution, solicitation, lobbying, effort, display, event etc. that seeks to limit or remove a woman’s right to choose her options in the case of pregnancy will not be supported.”
When the decision was being weighed, I argued that CUSA’s ban would amount to little more than discrimination based on religious and political belief. Yes, I used the “D” word. Here’s another word: humiliation. CUSA is no stranger to that one; it got plenty of it in 2008 after deciding to discontinue its Shinerama fundraiser for cystic fibrosis. Why? Well, members looked in their belly buttons and somehow landed upon the erroneous conclusion that the disease only affected “white people, and primarily men.” That little blunder cost CUSA some of its pride, and this one should too.
CUSA’s own constitution states its aim to uphold an “environment free from prejudice, exploitation, abuse or violence on the basis of, but not limited to, sex, race, language, religion, age, national or social status, political affiliation or belief, sexual orientation or marital status.” Indeed, on paper CUSA purports to defend a campus environment where prejudice based on political affiliation or belief is not tolerated. However, in practice, CUSA not only yields to such intolerance, but acts as perpetrator by denying club status based on the beliefs of its members. Ironic? (That creaking sound you hear is the collective twinge of CUSA’s decision-makers cocking their heads.)
Carleton Lifeline has been criticized for its methods—particularly its graphic displays and comparisons of abortion to Holocaust. I happen to agree with many of those criticisms. I really don’t see the need to invoke Hitler in the discussion of terminated pregnancies, especially when doing so is a pretty sure-fire way to shoot one’s self in the foot. But CUSA should not be the one to take away the gun. Pro-choice positions were once in the spot pro-life positions find themselves on campuses today; that is, in the minority. Imagine we forced those students silent for fear they would infringe on the rights of the religious majority? (Actually, that was often the case.) While Carleton Lifeline is not being silenced today, it is effectively being sent the same message by being denied club status.
The union needs to stand by its principle of defending the rights of all students, regardless of ideology. Or else, it should stand by none at all. While Carleton Lifeline’s message might make us feel a little uneasy, it does not infringe on a woman’s right to choose. CUSA should be ashamed of its blatant ideological favouritism, and lambasted for its discriminatory action towards its own students on campus.
Carleton students shouldn’t be forced to pay for a group they don’t support
Critics of the Carleton University Students’ Association’s threat to strip an anti-abortion group’s club status are missing the point.
“Carleton student association bans anti-abortion club,” screams the headline on the National Post’s religion blog. According to a press release from the Campaign Life Coalition: “Carleton University, that bastion of free-thought, has ordered some of its students to accept its pro-abortion policy or leave the University.”
The problem is that this just simply isn’t true.
What’s actually happening at Carleton is that the students’ association–not the university–has decided to suspend a group’s club status. What does this actually mean? It means the group won’t get student money and can’t use student space for their activities. That’s it.
This has nothing to do with freedom of speech and everything to do with a group of self-righteous whiners who feel that they’re entitled to funding from all students and are upset that the gravy train has been stopped.
This group hasn’t been “silenced” or any such nonsense, they’re just being forced to pay their own way.
Students shouldn’t be forced to financially support groups that they disagree with. As Thomas Jefferson said, “to compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
Yes, I am aware that students across the country are forced to pay for on-campus groups they may or may not support. I don’t think they should be.
Moreover, Carleton Lifeline’s views are particularly extreme. The group’s most recent protest involved the hosting of something called the “Genocide Awareness Project” a vile campaign which makes a mockery of the suffering of Holocaust victims.
The CUSA is a private corporation run by elected pseudo-politicians, they’re allowed to take stances on issues. One might even say that’s what they’re supposed to do.
If individual Carleton students want to pay for this group they can, and should, do it out of their own pockets.
Threat to decertify pro-life group ignores union’s pledge to protect campus diversity
CUSA issued a notice to Carleton Lifeline Monday saying that the group will been banned for failing to comply with CUSA’s anti-discrimination policy. It helpfully informed the club that it has the opportunity to be recertified, so long as it adjusts the terms its constitution.
“We invite you to amend your constitution to create one that respects our anti-discrimination policy,” wrote Khaldoon Bushnaq, CUSA’s vice-president of internal affairs. CUSA’s anti-discrimination policy essentially states that “any campaign, distribution, solicitation, lobbying, effort, display, event etc. that seeks to limit or remove a woman’s right to choose her options in the case of pregnancy will not be supported.”
In sum, Carleton’s anti-abortion club must now support abortion rights if it wants to remain a student group on campus. The thought police at CUSA have given Carleton Lifeline until tomorrow to amend its constitution.
CUSA is the same student organization that famously and erroneously characterized cystic fibrosis as a disease only affecting “white people, and primarily men” back in 2008. The student savants who made up the council at that time deemed the disease not “inclusive” enough and voted to discontinue its Shinerama fundraising campaign. The burden of national embarrassment (and, you know, the actual facts about the disease) eventually prompted council to reverse the decision, but it seems the discomfiture of being a Canada-wide laughingstock back in 2008 has settled for the CUSA of late, and it’s getting back to making outrageous moves.
In what can only be perceived as an ironic push for progressivism, CUSA has turned its own constitution on its head; a constitution which explicitly states its aim to uphold an “environment free from prejudice, exploitation, abuse or violence on the basis of, but not limited to, sex, race, language, religion, age, national or social status, political affiliation or belief, sexual orientation or marital status.” Despite Article I of CUSA’s constitution, which states that the organization “shall act as a representative of the entire undergraduate student body attending Carleton University” (emphasis mine), CUSA’s decertification of Carleton Lifeline is little more than a discriminatory move toward a segment of its populace.
Some students at Carleton University believe that abortion is wrong. Shall I pause for dramatic effect? Though perhaps an unpopular position among members of CUSA’s council, it shall nevertheless seek to uphold an environment where pro-lifers can express their political and ideological beliefs free from discrimination. That’s according to CUSA’s own stated principles. Perhaps council has forgotten, but clauses protecting individuals’ rights to association and free speech are precisely so important as to protect those unpopular opinions. Concepts such as a woman’s right to cast a vote or the freedom for gay partners to express affection in the streets were once unpopular and/or offensive positions too, after all.
Not only is CUSA failing to protect its student from discrimination based on political and possibly religious belief (anti-abortion positions are often faith-based, after all), the group has taken on the role of oppressor itself. By mandating a “think like us or else” ultimatum, council is not seeking equity for all students, but rather, is playing favourites with group ideology. Short of CUSA declaring that pro-life attitudes plague only “white people, and primarily men,” I should think this latest hypocriticial CUSA move has just about pushed limits of reason.
-Photo shows Lifeline members being arrested during a demonstration on campus last month.
Students charged with trespassing after erecting anti-abortion display
Five students were arrested and charged with trespassing after erecting an anti-abortion display at Carleton University’s main quadgrangle. Four of the students are members of pro-life group, Carleton Lifeline, while the fifth student was from Queen’s University.
The university had denied the group permission to put up the display in the quadgrangle when it applied two months ago, citing the size and offensiveness of the photos. Instead, the students were offered a table in university centre, an offer that apparently was not suitable for the group’s goals. It is about telling “the truth about abortion,” a Carleton Lifeline member said in the Post.
Photo of Ottawa police arresting students, courtesy of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform
Youth Protecting Youth to be reimbursed for withheld funding going back two years
A lawsuit launched by a University of Victoria pro-life club against the student society has been settled out of court. Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) has had its status as a student group fully restored, and the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) has agreed to reimburse the group for the funding that has been withheld for two years.
The spat began in October 2008 when the UVSS refused to give YPY the same meagre funding all UVic student clubs receive. Clubs approved by a committee are entitled to $232 each year and such perks as banner supplies and free room bookings. Upon review in 2009, the committee approved YPY. But the students’ society board stepped in and once again revoked the funding. In a meeting, last fall the society’s directors accused YPY of “harassing” female students (although they mentioned no specifics). Although its funding had been withdrawn, it wasn’t until February of this year, that YPY had its status as an official student group revoked.
In May, YPY filed a petition with B.C. Supreme Court seeking restitution for denied funding, reinstatement as a student group, and a removal of policies that defined pro-life advocacy as harassment. In June, the group noted on its website that the student society had agreed to most of its terms, but that YPY was seeking assurances that its status as a legitimate student group, entitled to the funding guaranteed to all other campus clubs would not be threatened again. Towards this end, the UVSS has agreed to allow the lawsuit to stand in abeyance, meaning it can be reactivated at any point in the future if the pro-life club again comes under threat.
YPY received legal counseling and representation from the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.
With files from Erin Millar
Why submitting universities to the Charter is a bad idea
If you question the morality of abortion then a university campus is no place for you. Anti-abortion student clubs are more likely to be subjected to an inquisition or denounced as misogynistic than to be invited to participate in robust debate. Student unions and university administrations have removed their funding, banned them from campus, and have even called the police.
These are not simply internal disputes. Pro-life groups have fought back through the courts, moves that, if successful, may ultimately bring universities within the purview of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To be sure, the militancy and hostility to diverse opinion of pro-choice student unions offends the libertarian norms of the Ivory Tower. But if campaigns to have expressive rights extended to universities are successful, then the precedent could demolish any notion of university autonomy.
While I hold no brief for campus censors, stripping universities of their independence, even for an exquisitely liberal purpose, is a greater threat. Universities should retain the authority to regulate what is and isn’t permitted on their campuses, particularly when it comes to non-academic activities. Just because political advocacy may occur on a university campus does not make it a scholarly exercise.
A University of Victoria pro-life group, Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), recently filed a lawsuit with the B.C. Supreme Court against the University of Victoria Students’ Society over a decision to deny the group the same funding that other student groups receive. Although that funding has since been restored, according to their website, the group wants assurances that it won’t be “silenced again.”
If the case makes it to court, it will centre, in part, around the question of whether the student society is in violation of B.C.’s University Act, which states that a student union’s “purpose is to represent the interests of the general undergraduate or graduate student body.”
This is supported by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), which argues in an affidavit that accompanied its recent application for intervener status in the case that, “for one group of students to purport to ‘govern’ by suppressing and singling out a group whose lawful expression it does not like is unlawful as being fundamentally offensive to fundamental legal principles.”
Although BCCLA executive director John Dixon has stated several times, including to Maclean’s, that his group believes denying pro-life clubs funding or space violates the Charter, the civil liberties group does not plan to make that argument this time around. Instead, in order to expedite the process, BCCLA simply plans to assist YPY in its lawsuit.
That doesn’t mean a quest to bring universities under constitutional control has been shelved for good. “We’ll look for the right case,” Dixon told me.
Immunity from the Charter, that student unions and university administrations cite in defence of their proclivity toward censorship, dates back to a precedent-setting 1990 Supreme Court ruling. At issue, was a case that sought to have the University of Guelph’s mandatory retirement policy struck down on Charter grounds. As the Charter is only applicable to Parliament and provincial legislatures, the Court first considered whether universities are under government control and ultimately ruled that they were not.
The majority did concede that universities are “creatures of statute carrying out an important public service,” and that “their powers, objects, activities and governing structures are determined by government.”
However, the Court ruled that “universities are legally autonomous” because of the existence of an independent board of governors that does not represent the government. Despite legislative constraints and financial reliance, university institutions “control their own affairs and enjoy independence from government regarding all important internal matters.” In effect, “their decisions are not government decisions.”
Despite this ruling, Dixon points out that the decision did not entrench universities as non-governmental entities as clearly as is asserted by student unions and university administrations. The late Justice John Sopinka, who sided with the majority, wrote in his own opinion of the case that while universities are to be guaranteed strict autonomy in their selection of staff, “some university activities, however, may be governmental in nature.”
In a talk given at the University of Guelph a few years later, Sopinka elaborated on what he meant. “If governing bodies engage in acts of censorship, they run the risk of being classed as government action and subject to the control of the Charter,” he said.
University charges students with trespassing after graphic abortion display
The University of Calgary has taken the war against politically incorrect opinions on university campuses to a whole new level.
The University is in the process of charging students with trepassing after the student set up a outdoor display containing graphic images of aborted fetuses.
The group Campus Pro-Life put up a display of the Genocide Awareness Project in a central area of the campus back in November. They did so despite being told by university administration they were not welcome to set-up the display in such a way that unsuspecting passers-by would be exposed to the images. The university also warned the students that legal consequences could follow if they defied the order. Regardless, the students set up their display with the pictures clearly visible to onlookers.
I not a supporter of the display and, frankly, find the equating of abortion to the Holocaust offensive. However, the university administration has a responsibility to tolerate student expression of such opinions. The fact that the university is seeking court convictions of these students shows a willingness to crush unpopular student expression that is unbecoming of an institution dedicated to the ideas of the academy.
The University of Calgary has been steadly climbing in reputation in the last couple of years and has done a wonderful job in creating good graduate programs that are nationally competitive. It was one of the universities I was considering if I decided to continue in political science for graduate studies. An institution that does not cherish free expression, especially when that expression is difficult to tolerate, is an institution that ultimately limits intellectual pursuits. Why would I attend an institution that limits debate?
I’m not disputing that the university has a right to ask Campus Pro-Life to display their pictures in a less intrusive way; that is an expression of an idea. However, it should not be able to use the coercive power of the state against a way of expressing an idea. The university says it doesn’t mind the expression of the idea on the campus, only the method of expression.
Universities shouldn’t allow one method of expression for ideas it agrees with and then deny that same method of expression to an idea it disapproves of.
Group defied university request to turn graphic images inwards; three charged
The CBC is reporting that several students who took part in a graphic anti-abortion display at the University of Calgary have been charged with trespassing.
According to the students’ lawyer, members of the University of Calgary Campus Pro-Life group have to enter a plea by the end of the month and can expect a trial later in 2009.
“The university is created by legislation, governed by legislation and receives more than 60 per cent of its funding from taxpayers,” said Canadian Constitution Foundation executive director John Carpay in a press release. “As a public institution, it does not have the right to discriminate against one group of students by censoring one viewpoint on an issue.”
President of the anti-abortion group Leah Hallman says three students have been served legal papers, and she expects three more will be served.
According to the Calgary Herald, the pro-life group and university administrators have been locked in an ongoing battle over the group’s Genocide Awareness Project display, which juxtaposes images of dead fetuses with Holocaust or Rwandan genocide victims.
On Nov. 26, after being asked by the university to turn the graphic images inwards to protect those who didn’t want to see them, the group erected their display with the posters facing outwards.
In a letter to the students before the rally, the university warned that they would consider the students to be trespassing and that they would be subject to arrest, fines, suspension or expulsion if their protest went ahead as planned.
The university also put up signs warning students and staff about the “extremely graphic” poster display.
Hallman says they were aware of the possibility of legal action after they went against the university’s warning, but that the decision to charge members of their group is both surprising and disappointing.