National Campus Life Network > Blog > Campus Blogs > University of Toronto Students for Life: VIDEO: Peaceful Prolife Student Protesters Given A Choice: “Protest” Inside or Face Arrest

University of Toronto Students for Life: VIDEO: Peaceful Prolife Student Protesters Given A Choice: “Protest” Inside or Face Arrest

This post was written for University of Toronto Students for Life by Blaise Alleyne. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

More details have emerged from the arrests at Carleton University this morning, especially with the release of this video from the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform.

Notice, the Carleton official doesn’t want “this display in this location.” What policies guide their restrictions on which displays can go where? As Ruth Lobo, the president of the Carleton pro-life pointed out, the Carleton Student Rights and Responsibilities Policy states that “peaceful assemblies, demonstrations and lawful picketing are allowed within established laws.” Yet, the University told the students to “protest” indoors (is that what they tell union staff when they strike?) or be charged with trespassing on their own campus.

I took a guess that Porter Hall was a little less of an effective location for a protest than where they were heading. Craig Stewart, one of the students, left a comment on our first post about this incident describing Porter Hall as “an isolated old gymnasium off the beaten path.” Ruth Lobo says in the National Post that its “like a tomb to which no one ever goes.” Take a look at where Porter Hall is, according to Google Maps, in relation to the Carleton campus.
Update: Seth left a comment to correct the Google map:

Just for the sake of accuracy, Porter Hall is actually located on level 2 of the University Center building. To be fair, that is the central building right in the middle of campus and it’s packed with students passing through and eating everyday. That being said, nobody really knows where Porter Hall is. It’s a bit of a cave and down a couple of halls from the highly populated areas. Either way, the pin on the map is incorrect. The UniCentre building is just South-West of Campus Avenue from the green arrow. That is the central area of the Carleton Campus.

I guess Google doesn’t know where Porter Hall is either.

Which other campus groups get arrested for not protesting in Porter Hall?

The legal issues are a bit tricky. Does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply to universities? They assert they are private institutions, yet the majority of their funding often comes from the government, and there isn’t really a clear legal precedent. Notwithstanding the Charter (get it?), the University has a responsibility to adhere to its own governing documents, which outlined a right to peaceful protest under “established laws.” Certain time, manner and place restrictions are reasonable, but cannot be applied arbitrarily, and also ought to be reasonable. Telling the pro-life club that they can only protest on the edge of campus, indoors, seems pretty unreasonable, and I’d be surprised if other groups got the same treatment. There’s also Ontario human rights legislation which could come into play if things were to really get nasty. (Though, note that the students were charged with trespassing under provincial law, not criminal trespassing under the criminal code, so, I’ve been told it’s more like a traffic violation in the sense that you don’t have a criminal record, but just fines.)

Though the legal issues are murky, the broader message is not. Carleton University will attempt to squash expression it doesn’t like, they’ll call the cops on peaceful students if they don’t stay indoors with their protests, and they won’t hesitate to discriminate based on the message.

In short, if you express an unpopular opinion at Carleton, you might be cuffed and hauled off in a van.

Read the comments at the University of Toronto Students for Life website.