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Censorship Remains Unchecked at Laurier

A Response to the Letter from the LSU President

By Josh MacMillan, NCLN Campus Coordinator

On October 20, 10,000 pink and blue flags were set up by the pro-life club at Laurier campus, representing the 100,000 abortions that happen every year in Canada. The display was torn down by protestors. (Photo: R. Harlaar)

Good luck holding an unpopular opinion at Wilfred Laurier University (WLU), because according to the Laurier Student Union (LSU), you will get no protection.

LSU President Tyler Van Herzele, an elected representative of the student body who “works with key university and community personnel to advocate on behalf of all undergraduate students,” recently set a precedent that completely sidelines them.

In an open letter dated December 7, 2016, Van Herzele made a statement about an event held by the pro-life club, Laurier Lifelink in October. The club had hosted the WeNeedaLaw.ca flag display, comprised of 10,000 small pink and blue flags, each representing 10 abortions that happen each year in Canada. The event is meant to inform students about the facts about abortion in Canada and start a discussion on it. Half-way through the day, the display was destroyed by protestors.

The event was approved by the LSU. The space was properly booked. Everything was in order according to the LSU and LifeLink President Stephanie Breukelman. Yet, in light of the complaints and destructive action on the part of some members of the WLU Community, LSU automatically places the blame on the pro-life club and does not give them a fair hearing. The LSU plainly refuses to acknowledge that LifeLink has had their rights to free speech trampled upon, and was treated unjustly, regardless of the content of the display.

In the letter, Van Herzele states that “discussion of controversial issues should [not] be avoided” on the Laurier campus, and that the LSU “remain[s] dedicated to supporting the fundamental freedoms all Canadians share, including the ability to openly express opinions and beliefs.” Yet, in the same breath, he blames LifeLink for creating an “adversarial tone” which “evoked a confrontation which eliminated the possibility of respectful dialogue and created an unsafe environment for all students.”

This “adversarial tone” was simply a visualization of facts and the promotion of healthy discussion between students about these facts. It was, in fact, the protesting students who tore down the display and who “eliminated the possibility of respectful dialogue” and “created an unsafe environment.” Where is this so-called “dedication” to free speech? Obviously at LSU, there is none for pro-life students.

Van Herzele has made it ominously clear that this kind of treatment is not over. “We are working… to ensure this does not happen again…[by] revising several clubs policies to ensure future events, particularly those engaging in controversial or polarizing topics, respect the multitude of personal experiences and perspectives on campus.” What does this mean? By uttering not a word to defend the pro-life students from the unjust actions of mobs (simply because they are challenging students to think about “controversial issues”), it makes it very clear that Van Herzele does not have the best interests of all students in mind, but instead believes that mob rule silencing minority and unpopular opinions is justified and should be defended.

It is clear from this letter that LSU and its President are opposed to free speech and are not taking any action to defend free speech. Laurier LifeLink was told in a meeting the “concerns expressed by the Laurier community members were discussed and clear expectations were set for any future events.” Yet, the protestors who tore down the display were not told that what they did was unacceptable, nor were any expectations set for conduct at WLU that does not censor the free expression of others. Until a statement is issued to the contrary, it is clear that the LSU does not encourage “intellectual and social inquiry,” nor is dedicated to “valuing the existence of a variety of viewpoints and opinions.”

We encourage you to demand that the LSU Board and its President, Van Herzele, make clear to the WLU community that mob censorship is not acceptable on a University Campus and that they uphold the right of Laurier LifeLink to host events just like any other clubs, without fear of censorship for expressing what may be an unpopular belief.  You can contact the LSU by filling out the Customer Service and Satisfaction Policy Feedback Form, located to the right of the letter linked here, or by contacting Van Herzele directly at:

Tyler Van Herzele
supresident@wlu.ca
519.884.0710 x 3409

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Thank You Kathleen!

“Working with you has made every day – and even late nights – a blast.” 

2016-11-18-thank-you-kathleen

After over 4 years of serving on staff with NCLN, we would like to send a heart-felt thank you to Kathleen LeBlanc as she moves on to do full time work in youth ministry.

We are incredibly appreciative of all that Kathleen has given NCLN; she has shared her talents and passion for serving students and saving babies, and has greatly impacted us with her gifts in digital media. She has also been integral in the growth and development of NCLN as an organization.

Although it’s hard for us to say goodbye, we’re grateful for her continued support of our work, and we wish her all the best with her new ministry!

Shifting Identities and Challenging Consciences

By Josh MacMillan, NCLN Campus Coordinator

On October 20th I was present at a Flag Display organized by Laurier LifeLink. Despite the cold, rainy weather, by early morning 10,000 blue and pink flags, each representing 10 abortions, were planted in the Quad, a grassy square in the centre of campus. The question was posed: “What do you think about 100,000 abortions occurring every year in Canada?”

By mid-afternoon, we had an answer. A mob of students converged on the display, uprooting it, many claiming the display was shaming women, spreading hate speech, using ‘shock’ tactics, not welcome on university campuses, and/or just plain wrong to do. Regardless of their specific justification for their actions, the common sentiment was this: they wanted to protect the women on campus from experiencing trauma due to seeing this display.

This makes sense. No one in their right mind – pro-life or pro-choice – wants to see another human being suffer. When we see harm being done to another, we take action.

In the case of abortion, then, what action must we as pro-lifers take?

Paul Swope, author of Abortion: A Failure to Communicate, recognizes that pro-lifers care deeply about the lives of the pre-born. However, this does not mean that those in favour of access to abortion do not. An unplanned pregnancy inherently changes the identities of the people involved. She becomes a mother. He becomes a father. And that change can be difficult to handle as it alters the current identity a person has of themselves.

shifitng-identities

He continues to explain that abortion supporters look at an unplanned pregnancy as having one of three undesirable outcomes for the woman: motherhood, adoption, and abortion. Motherhood is undesirable because she might have other plans, such as education and a career. Adoption is dangerous because abandoning her child labels her as a ‘bad’ mother in society; it is also uncertain because the child may one day come looking for her, which may be difficult to face. The last outcome, abortion, by its very nature is an undesirable decision. But due to the gravity of the other options, it becomes a necessary “one of self-preservation … to the woman deciding to abort and to those supporting her decision.”

The pro-choice students who tore up the Flag Display were likely acting in the defence of the women on campus who made the choice to have an abortion. Consistent with Swope’s points, they likely see some students – or themselves – as having to make a hard, undesirable, but justified, decision.

With this understanding of the actions of those against us, Swope suggests that the pro-life movement should, when doing outreach, focus on pro-motherhood campaigns, as “[t]he pro-life movement’s own self-chosen slogans and educational presentations have tended to… focus almost exclusively on the unborn child, not the mother. This tends to build resentment, not sympathy, particularly among women of child-bearing age.” While he is right to criticize the pro-life movement when it does not address the issues surrounding an unplanned pregnancy, it cannot only be pro-motherhood, especially on campus. Focusing solely on pro-motherhood campaigns does nothing to challenge the notion of a ‘choice’ for the demographic most vulnerable to abortion – university- and college-aged women. We can and must offer women better choices, but failing to reveal the harm that one choice will cause to another human being does not challenge the consciences of our peers.

So how do we strike the right balance in showing we are pro-woman and pro-child?

Every outreach event the Pro-Life Student Movement does must have pro-motherhood and post-abortive healing resources available. We must also be better prepared to look into the eyes of our peers with their hurts and heart-breaking experiences and say, “I’m so sorry you are going through this… Can I put you in touch with someone who can help?”  This means integrating into all our discussions about the reality of abortion, the message of hope and healing, and making it as clear as possible that we want to help heal the brokenness on our campuses. We should always evaluate the ways we may have not communicated the pro-life message with love, and determine how we can do better. In doing this, we will be more able to affirm women in their identity, an identity that can include themselves as mothers, and challenge them to make the tough decision to defend the life of a human being – possibly their own child.

But even the hardest of truths said with love still hurts. We will be resented for standing up for the preborn, and we will experience backlash, just like we experienced at the flag display. We mustn’t fear sharing the truth and concern ourselves with preserving the pro-life image in order, as Swope states, to “regain the moral high ground in the mind of the… public…” It is the truth that will challenge consciences and, spoken with love, will open the door to dispelling the myths of abortion being a justified decision.

It’s the Message, not the Method

By Clarissa Canaria, Operations Director

On the afternoon of October 18th, I participated in ‘Choice’ Chain on the sidewalks of Ryerson University with our NCLN team in Toronto. We joined the Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform and Toronto Against Abortion in showing abortion victim photography to students, holding signs as well as large banners depicting what a pre-born child looks like after being forcibly removed from the womb.

On this same day, the pro-life club at York University was holding an outreach table. As usual, they engaged students passing by, asking questions, and holding hand-made signs with various slogans such as “Life Begins at Conception” and “Human Rights for All Human Beings”.

Clearly, there are differences in the methods used to share the pro-life message at these two events. What was the response to each of them?

Choice Chain at Ryerson (Photo Cred: Toronto Against Abortion)
The pro-life club at York University with their tables and signs (Photo: YPY at York)
The pro-life club at York University with their tables and signs (Photo Cred: YPY at York)

The answer may surprise you. Both groups experienced the same opposition – the same censorship, the same reproach, and the same anger – from people who disagreed with them.

This further confirms what I’ve witnessed across the country since being active in the pro-life movement. It’s the pro-life message, not the method by which it is shared, that offends.

The following is a response I hear all too often: “I’m all for you sharing your message, but do you have to do it this way? I think people would respond to you better if you did [insert something else here] instead.”

The experience at Ryerson and York illustrates how this simply isn’t true, and what is unfortunate is that this comment not only comes from abortion advocates (those willing to engage in conversation, at least), but also from well-meaning pro-lifers; often times this reaction is based on a feeling of discomfort or second hand thoughts from a friend, rather than from directly experiencing engaging in dialogue.

Throughout my 4.5 years with NCLN I have worked alongside campuses across the province, using various methods to encourage dialogue on abortion. Further to the two previously mentioned, the QA Project, the We Need A Law Flag Display, as well as tables with embryology information and fetal models, have all received opposition, in part because of their ‘graphic’ and ‘offensive’ nature.

I want to set the record straight. We are fooling ourselves if we think there is a method to share the pro-life message that won’t offend someone. The feelings of offense from born people should not prevent us from sharing the truth of the pro-life message. This is not an excuse to be rash or to articulate our message poorly; we must always speak with compassion, alongside conviction. But the sooner we understand that it is the message, not the method, that offends, the better for the pro-life cause in moving forward and doing what is effective in saving lives – on- and off-campus.

Our message is offensive because we are sharing a truth that many do not want to hear. Yet, abortion is an offensive act that kills a pre-born child and we are doing no one a favor by sugar coating this bitter reality.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: On-Campus Anti-Abortion Flag Display Torn Down By Counter-Protestors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: On-Campus Anti-Abortion Flag Display Torn Down By Counter-Protestors

Waterloo, ON – Laurier LifeLink, the pro-life club at Wilfrid Laurier University, had their flag display torn down by pro-abortion protestors. The visually stunning project from WeNeedaLaw.ca consists of 10,000 pink and blue flags, each representing 10 abortions that happen every year in Canada.

 

10,000 pink and blue flags were set up on the Laurier campus, representing the 100,000 abortions that happen every year in Canada. (Photo Cred: J. MacMillan)
10,000 pink and blue flags were set up on the Laurier campus, representing the 100,000 abortions that happen every year in Canada. (Photo Cred: J. MacMillan)

As the club was peacefully passing out literature and engaging their peers in conversation about the issue of abortion, about fifteen protestors went into the display and started to remove the flags out of the ground before the event was scheduled to finish.

Although campus security was present, Rachel Harlaar, former President of Laurier Lifelink, stated that the university did very little to stop it. “In some people’s minds, freedom of speech only exists for the opinions they like to hear,” she said.

Protestors tearing down the display. (Photo Cred: R. Harlaar)
Protestors tearing down the display. (Photo Cred: R. Harlaar)

The club had approval for the event. Members of the university’s Students’ Union came out to the display, expressing their support for the club’s freedom of expression on campus.

NCLN Campus Coordinator Josh MacMillan was present the event and expressed dismay at the actions of the counter-protestors. “The display represents the sobering reality that children are being killed in our country. We recognize this makes people uncomfortable, but the truth should not be silenced.”

Laurier LifeLink will continue to do outreach on campus in the coming weeks.

Abortion Victim Photography: A Justifiable Defence of the Preborn?

abortion-photography-image_2

By Josh MacMillan, NCLN Campus Coordinator

“You’re disgusting!”
“How could you be showing such a thing!”
“F*** you!”

Our NCLN staff and students are not unfamiliar with these words as pro-life students across the country use abortion victim photography in their outreach on campus. I was at a recent ‘Choice’ Chain at Ryerson University during which pro-abortion protestors tried to cover up the images we were showing. The frustration the protesters expressed was palpable and real.

It isn’t hard to understand why people are so angry, and I certainly agree that these images are gross, disturbing, and hard to stomach.

The images we show during ‘Choice’ Chain, the truths that we are exposing, are disturbing to the greatest extent. But what is also disturbing is that as a society we are largely complicit in allowing this act to continue. It is these facts that cause many to recoil in anger and disgust.

One doesn’t want to believe that we have allowed this to continue. We would prefer to be uninformed. Or less informed, for that matter. We are told that it would be better if we simply didn’t use the images and used only words instead, because the images are simply too much to bear.

But are they too much to show? I have struggled with this question for years.

And after thinking about it, and taking part in events that use abortion victim photography, I have my answer: no, it is not too much to show. The images reveal the truth about abortion. The images are horrible and disgusting because abortion is horrible and disgusting.

It is a truth that we would rather not see, but it is in seeing abortion’s reality that we can clearly understand the toll abortion takes on innocent human lives. And I have personally witnessed people who have changed their hearts and minds and saved lives because they have seen this reality.

As a society, we value freedom. We value the ability to make an informed choice about the actions we take. We become angry when we are duped into buying into something that isn’t true. To make free choices, we want all of the information.

When we consider what abortion is, we need the facts. And the facts aren’t pretty.

I don’t fear showing the images, because I am showing the results of a choice. We all need to confront the reality of that choice, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes us. If we’re okay with abortion, we should not be so upset by these images. If we aren’t comfortable with what we see, maybe we need to reconsider if we agree with the act being shown. If abortion is a human rights violation, our discomfort is nothing compared to the injustice of abortion.

These images are the only cry for help that the unborn have to utter for themselves. These are the facts of their lives. With this information we can make a free and informed choice. Will we continue to tolerate this inhumane killing of innocent human beings, or will we reject it?

Yes, the images of aborted babies are disgusting. But the day these cease to be disturbing, the day we choose to ignore the facts about abortion and the reality of what it does to preborn humans, will be a sad day indeed for our country.

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” – William Wilberforce

Giving Thanks for Lives Saved

In mid-March, the pro-life club at the University of Saskatchewan hosted a pregnancy support table every day for one week. It was deliberately held one week before the university’s so-called “Pro-Choice Awareness Week.” Not only was the club a life-affirming witness on campus, but their efforts reverberated in the community. During the week, the pro-life team reached out to over 300 students: some had friends who were hurting either after abortion or a miscarriage, 1 was looking to adopt, and 3 were abortion-minded women who thought they were pregnant.

Club members were able to take one of these women to a pregnancy centre, where it was confirmed she was not pregnant. Throughout the journey she felt supported, and began to open up.

Then she told the club about “Anne.”

Anne was a friend of hers. Anne was pregnant, her baby 3 months old at the time. Anne was scheduled for an abortion the following week.

It was March 17th when one club member, Denae, became part of Anne’s story, asking friends, and friends of friends for prayer. Hundreds of people were praying for Anne and her baby. 

On March 21st Denae met Anne, planning to offer to care for the baby if Anne didn’t want to. However, upon meeting Denae, Anne shared that she had woken up on March 18th, and for no explicable reason had changed her mind about abortion.

Denae has encouraged and supported Anne throughout her pregnancy, helping her find a midwife, baby supplies, a local support program

On September 13th a little baby boy entered the world because of the club’s and Denae’s support. 

giving-thanks

Our NCLN staff are incredibly grateful for the self-sacrificing work of all our pro-life university students. There are many people this Thanksgiving who have even more to be thankful for because of your life-saving efforts. Thank you.

Your Reach is Wider Than You Think

 

Written by Anastasia Pearse, Executive Director, NCLN

As pro-life activists we know that we will never see the full fruits of our work; we do not know how far our efforts are reaching. However, once in a while we have opportunities to see the incredible impact each and every single one of our action can have.

When I was a student at UVic we filed a lawsuit against our Student Society because they refused to grant status to our pro-life club. Our activism on campus and our efforts to regain our status were consistently mentioned in our student newspaper, and, unbeknownst to me at the time, were closely followed by one of my professors.

This professor was co-authoring a second edition of a health and wellness textbook, An Invitation to Health, and because of the witness of our club, she placed a couple paragraphs about the pro-life movement in the reproductive choices chapter; she had realized how biased this chapter was, and how it could alienate students who were pro-life. When she wrote the third edition of the textbook she contacted me, asking if I could help co-write a pro-life section in this chapter!

Because our club was persistent in our activism and efforts to regain our status, and we were not afraid to be visible and vocal advocates of the pro-life cause, students in health and wellness classes across the country have heard about the pro-life message and been exposed to the reality of abortion.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  We know that many lives depend on us speaking up and speaking out about the reality of abortion – how far will your voice reach?