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Students at Brandon University Sue their Student Union after Club Banned from Campus

 

Brandon, MB: Pro-life students at Brandon University have filed a lawsuit after having their club status withdrawn by their student union in November without warning. The Brandon University Student Union alleged that the pro-life stance made some students feel “uncomfortable” and “intimidated” them. The union also argued that the club’s beliefs were contrary to the Canadian Federation of Students’ official pro-choice stance, and that the club itself was redundant because other campus groups (the LGBTQ Collective and the Women’s Collective) addressed the issue of abortion.

The club is not unfamiliar with censorship, as this is not the first time they have had to resort to legal aid in order to regain their official club status. “Our student union claims to serve students and support them in their efforts to share their passions and advocate for various causes,” states Catherine Dubois, president of Brandon University Students for Life, “However, over the past 4 years our club has been repeatedly censored and denied these opportunities offered to every other student. We are tired and frustrated with being treated in such a discriminatory manner.”

“It is unacceptable that a student on a university campus should have to resort to a court challenge to ensure they can enjoy the same freedoms as their peers on campus,” states Anastasia Pearse, Executive Director of National Campus Life Network, an organization dedicated to supporting post-secondary pro-life students, “It is disconcerting that campuses in our country are choosing to censor controversial issues rather than allow for open dialogue and debate.”

Currently, four other lawsuits initiated by pro-life student clubs are working their way through courts across the country. This is the highest number of lawsuits regarding campus free speech issues to be filed by pro-life clubs within a one-year period. The other universities include Ryerson University, the University of Toronto Mississauga, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and the University of Alberta.

“Abortion is an issue that personally affects women of the university age,” states Pearse, “we believe that women deserve to know everything about this procedure, even if the information makes people feel uncomfortable. Universities should not be afraid to accommodate opposing views on important and even controversial issues. With over 250 abortions occurring every day in Canada, this is a conversation that students ought to be having.”

For further information:

Anastasia Pearse
Executive Director, National Campus Life Network
director@ncln.ca
604-365-3484

Catherine Dubois, Brandon University Students for Life
204-570-1710 or duboiscm52@brandonu.ca

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2015 Fall Brandon Chalking_4

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Strong Without Leave

On Finding Your Voice in the Pro-Life Movement

By: Chad Hagel, NCLN Intern

In a recent conversation with a well-trusted advisor, we spoke about my positive qualities. One of these qualities was my strength of character; he emphasized that “it was something which set me apart from [other people] my age” and a quality that provided me with confidence. He explained that “strength of character” means not giving up and sticking to your beliefs. After the conversation, I took some time to look at how I showcased my strength of character in my daily life, noting with particular attention my journey in finding my voice in the pro-life movement.

Strength of character is essential to the pro-life movement, particularly if we want to be seen as leaders. Everything else comes from strength of character: passion, motivation and commitment to your cause. You can’t be a leader if you don’t have a small measure of confidence in yourself and aren’t afraid to speak up for what you believe. This carries an added weight in the pro-life movement, as we are committed to providing a voice for the voiceless.

Strength of character is something which everyone can grow in – it’s not something you’re just born with.

Speaking for myself, when I first became active in the pro-life movement, I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence. I could hardly approach a complete stranger during the QA Project and ask them about something I saw to be a controversial issue. When I stood outside buildings on campus, my voice would fade away, and I would be extremely hesitant to approach someone and talk to them.

Over the past couple years, though, this has changed. Although I still have times where I struggle with coming out of my shell (I am an introvert), I am increasingly unhesitant to share the truth about abortion when reaching out to both complete strangers and close friends.

How did I get to this point?

That’s what I would like to emphasize: how to build strength of character in the pro-life movement. That small bit of life-saving confidence. Here are some ideas:

  1. Attend pro-life apologetics training, either for yourself or with your club. This can be facilitated by contacting NCLN or another pro-life organization within Canada, such as the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR). I particularly recommend coming to NCLN’s Symposium in September!
  2. Get experience. If you have a pro-life club on your campus, great! Join it! Even though not all clubs have activism, all clubs need new people to bring spunk and vision to the organization and make sure the message never dies. You can implement NCLN’s QA Project on your campus, as well as look into introducing CCBR’s “Choice” Chain into your activism. Work alongsidethe local Right to Life groups in your area, if you are lucky to have them.
  3. Build relationships with like-minded organizations. Even if you don’t have a pro-life group on campus yet, there are plenty of opportunities to add your voice to the pro-life cause this summer and year-round. Your local Right to Life group is often the best place to begin and might be able to connect you with other pro-life groups. 40 Days for Life, enlisting the services of those in the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, and participating in CCBR’s “Choice” Chains are also brilliant ways to begin saving lives in the wider community.

Whatever words emerge as your pro-life voice, what’s important is that you take these words to heart.

You become what you embody. You become a leader. You develop strength of character, as you build up confidence in yourself and your message.

It will not be easy. But, as all of us at NCLN can testify, confidence comes with experience and a belief that you indeed have something of value to share, persevering in the face of tragedy and adversity. You can become strong without leave, and lead our world as the leaders of tomorrow, speaking as you do for the ones who cannot speak for themselves.

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A Few Questions, A Great Hope

By Maria McCann
VP Events of Western Lifeline

“Hi there, do you have a minute for a few questions?”

I have lost count of the number of times I have asked this question since November 2015, when Western Lifeline began running weekly sessions of NCLN’s Question Abortion (QA) Project.

At our first QA Project session, I remember the question of one of my friends: “Is anyone else super nervous?” As a university pro-life club, Western Lifeline had held outreach tables before to advertise for events, but we did not usually engage so directly with students on the issue of abortion in Canada. Though we were timid at first, we quickly discovered that the survey was an excellent way to engage with students. The QA Project was so successful at our school because it presented a positive challenge: it challenged our pro-choice peers to question their beliefs, and it challenged our club members to grow as pro-life advocates.

The QA Project lives up to its name – it truly encourages students to question their views on abortion. We talked to so many people who simply did not know about the legal vacuum regarding abortion, and many expressed shock that abortions at 9 months of pregnancy were legal in Canada. When we engaged them further on whether they believed in human rights for all human beings, the transformations were amazing. Here are some of the things we heard from students during our conversations:

  • After answering questions about human rights and seeing an image of an abortion victim, a student went from accepting early abortions to agreeing that abortion was never OK and was “so cruel”. Regarding the image of the abortion victim, she said, “We need to be showing this in the media.”
  • After learning about how the life of a human being begins at fertilization, a woman who had been pro-choice said, “I think you’ve changed my mind on this.”
  • One young man initially said that he did not believe in any restrictions on abortion. After talking about human rights, he changed his position to only supporting abortion in the “hard cases”, such as when a woman became pregnant due to rape. After we discussed those difficult situations and we agreed that we can never intentionally kill an innocent human being, he agreed that abortion was never justifiable. He said he would step up and be a father if his partner became pregnant unexpectedly.

Some people could only chat with us for a minute or two. However, even in those brief encounters, we were able to make “pro-life progress” with those individuals. For instance, I had a short conversation with a friend who could not stay long. After discussing human rights with him and showing him an image of an abortion victim, I asked him when it would be justifiable to kill a pre-born child. He replied, “I came into this conversation believing in a wide set of circumstances [where abortion was permissible]… By the end of this conversation, that set of circumstances has definitely narrowed.”

The QA Project also gave our club members the opportunity to grow as pro-life advocates. During our 148 conversations, we sharpened our apologetics skills while also learning how to respond compassionately to students who were in many different situations. I was so proud to see my friends develop courage and confidence after just one or two sessions of QA. If someone asked us a question that we did not know how to answer, we were motivated to learn the answer. As a club, in our bi-weekly educational meetings, we would then regularly include tips on how to incorporate our new pro-life knowledge into our QA conversations.

The NCLN staff encouraged us to do activism for just an hour or two each week in order to prevent burnout. We found this much more effective (and much less tiring) than a typical 5 or 6 hours at an outreach table. The debrief at the end of each QA session was particularly helpful for supporting club members. We were able to celebrate our successes when conversations went really well, but we were also able to encourage each other when one of us had a challenging conversation.

Although Western Lifeline’s activities are wrapping up as our school year ends, I am really looking forward to doing the QA Project again in the fall with my friends. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the Culture of Death that seems to have saturated Canadian society, I draw great hope from the knowledge that my campus is a little bit more pro-life after every hour of QA that we do. I can already feel myself itching to ask someone…

“Hi there, do you have a minute for a few questions?”

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You can visit Western Lifeline on Facebook.
Learn more about the QA Project and how to bring it to your school or campus at ncln.ca/outreach/QAProject


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Why I Love the QA Project

 

By Meagan Nijenhuis
President of U of Guelph Life Choice

The prof wraps up the last slide in my Clinical Biomechanics class at 11:20 and I’m off. I have an hour and a half gap between classes today to do pro-life activism, so I book it across campus to the building where our club locker is, dashing up one flight of stairs, then another, grabbing the bag full of clipboards and resources, and I’m off again. It’s 11:30 and my club members are waiting at our meeting spot. Despite being a week full of midterms (what week isn’t?), there are still 4 dedicated members out!

Why are these students giving up an hour of their time between classes and midterms? Because they, along with myself, see that the QA Project is making an impact at Guelph. We’re able to do it almost every week because it’s easy, it requires minimal planning, it provides dialogue practice to our members AND it’s increasing our club membership.

I know that many pro-life club exec members across the country are running on empty. A 12 week semester is short and many of those weeks are loaded with midterms and assignments. To have a team alongside you makes things 10,000 times easier. To have a larger team also means that you can train people to do the jobs you do. Other people can learn how to lead the QA project so if you have a midterm that day, activism can go on. Hearts and minds can continue to be changed.

But how in the world do you grow that team? I know from experience that you don’t grow your team sitting in your meeting once a week with your members. I’ve tried that, maybe with a tabling session and a couple guest speakers thrown in the mix. But your club members won’t feel equipped at tabling if they haven’t practiced. You may have given them all the tools, but it’s like putting your winter tires on without driving in the snow: you can’t be sure you can do it until you’ve done it yourself a couple times. So it ends up being you and a few of your exec. You can’t do that all the time, so you’re out even less. But that’s the biggest problem! You need to be visible on campus. You need to get out there. You need to let people know that there are pro-lifers on their campus.

Every time I wrap up a session of QA, I’ve got epinephrine pumping through my arteries! I can’t wipe the smile off my face. I HAVE to text Clarissa or Alex with the great news! We had so many great conversations! And we also got a couple more SIGN UPS!

And when sign ups get involved, they fuel your club. Some of our most active members, signed up this semester when our club was made visible, whether that was at the Club Day table or the flag display. And at our bake sale, we had a new member come to help out – a student who had signed up during the QA Project! Why are the newest members the most active? We give them the ability to practice their apologetics almost every week because of our weekly activism. They’re seeing the discussion opened up on campus. They’re seeing hearts and minds changed.  They have an opportunity to get involved.

The QA Project is my kind of effective.

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Visit U of G Life Choice on Facebook and follow them on Instagram.
Learn more about the QA Project and how to bring it to your school or campus at ncln.ca/outreach/QAProject

 

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University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union sued over censoring free expression on campus

After fighting since August to have their club status renewed for this school year, students from University of Toronto Students for Life (UTMSFL), with the representation of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, have filed a lawsuit against their student union. National Campus Life Network has been supporting UTMSFL throughout the process as they have been combating the immature and discriminatory behaviour of their student union. Our staff have been impressed and encouraged by their perseverance in this case, and continued dedication to sharing the pro-life message on their campus.

NCLN Staff with UTM Students for Life
NCLN Staff with UTM Students for Life

From the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union sued over censoring free expression on campus

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has filed a court action against the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), to defend the free expression rights of a pro-life student group that is being denied registered club status by UMTSU.UTMSU has refused to renew the club status of Students for Life for the 2015-16 year, effectively barring the student group from using the student centre and accessing student union resources.  As a result, in September of 2015, Students for Life could not join other campus clubs in setting up a table during clubs’ week—a key event for recruiting new members.

UTMSU had granted club status for Students for Life in the 2014-15 school year, but changed its mind specifically because of Students for Life’s “stance on Abortion”.  UTMSU’s mission statement includes a commitment “[t]o safeguard the individual rights of the student, regardless of race, creed, sex … or personal or political beliefs,” and lists “strength in diverse voices and opinions” as a “fundamental belief.”

“It appears that UTMSU sees diverse opinions as good for most topics, but not abortion,” stated Calgary lawyer John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.

After receiving a legal warning letter from the Justice Centre in October 2015, Russ Adade, UTMSU Vice-President, changed his previous rationale for denying club status to Students for Life, namely, the club’s stance on abortion.  Adade instead told Students for Life that the reason their club was denied status was “violations and discrepancies we found within your constitution in relation to the clubs handbook and UTMSU operational policy as it pertains to clubs.”

Students for Life immediately made the required changes to their constitution, but UTMSU has continued to deny club status, necessitating court action.

Students for Life has filed a court action against UTMSU for violating its own rules, for acting with bias and bad faith, for breaching the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness, and for failing to respect students’ fundamental freedoms of expression and association.

“The actions of UTMSU have demonstrated their disregard for their own rules, and for students’ freedom of expression and freedom of association,” stated Diane Zettel, President of Students for Life.

For more information, please contact:

Diane Zettel, President, UTM Students for Life
647-224-9339 or diane.zettel@mail.utoronto.ca

John Carpay, President, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms
403-619-8014 or jcarpay@jccf.ca

 Visit the UTMSFL website
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Dialogue Series, Part 3

Poverty, Difficulty, and Suffering

Written by Clarissa Canaria

 

Over one fifth of abortions are reported to be for financial reasons (Guttmacher Institute, 2005). In my years of being a pro-life advocate, this situation has been one of the most common I have heard, with the “logic” being something along these lines:

If a woman is financially unable to take care of a child, both of them will be in poverty. And if both of them are in poverty, both of them will suffer and live difficult lives.

Some people then carry this situation further, saying:

If that’s the case, the child is more likely to be a criminal in future.

We can all agree that having financial issues and being in poverty can lead to some challenges. But the above thinking contradicts so much of what we appreciate and value in the people around us and those we admire: their courage and perseverance in overcoming difficult circumstances.

If we would not accept the killing of born people who are starving in a third-world country, a toddler who’s parents are in a financial crisis, or those living in low-income neighbourhoods because statistics show possible correlations between poverty and crime, why do we use this same reasoning to kill preborn human beings?

Our society has been inconsistent for far too long. We are encouraged to help those who are suffering, by giving of our time and resources to alleviate their pain. We commend individuals who choose to take a difficult path and who have found the strength to overcome their challenges even though it may be hard. Regardless of their background or circumstances, we provide opportunities for people to do good in this world. However, in the case of abortion we overlook these calls to action, discouraging people from taking what may be a difficult path. Promoting abortion in these cases, stating that the preborn would be better off dead, devalues the lives of those who do in fact live in these challenging situations.

I once spoke to a woman who identified herself as being adamantly pro-choice, citing these exact reasons of poverty, difficulty, and suffering to back up her perspective. After asking her similar questions about how we treat born people in difficult circumstances, she said it herself: “In an ideal world, there would be no need for an abortion.”

Killing the preborn child does not suddenly make this an ideal world. It doesn’t eliminate a mother’s financial problems nor does it remove her difficult circumstances. We can only work towards this ideal world when we as a society consistently encourage people to choose the right thing, even when it may be difficult, and help and support those who do. We do this because we know that each and every human life is worth living and has value, and this value is not dependent upon the circumstances we find ourselves in – or the state our world is in.

difficult circumstances meme

 

So in everything that we do, let’s strive to create a world where we affirm the lives of all those around us, helping those who are facing difficulties and empowering them to overcome their challenges.

 
That’s something we can all agree on.

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The Chalked Message Made Her Angry, But Then…

As a student at the University of Ottawa, Billie saw pro-life messages in chalk on her campus for the first time a couple of years ago. This is her story:

 

I used to be a radical pro-choicer

because that was my peer group and the rhetoric I heard from a young age.

 

A couple years ago, I was walking out of the cafeteria [at the University] and I saw the statistic about Down’s syndrome children being aborted. It was the first thing I saw. I saw it a couple times and tried not to think about it. After the third time, I let myself think about it and was angry. It must not be true.

I was angry at the pro-life club for chalking the messages but I didn’t know why I was angry.

I looked it up on the computer and found very official statistics that confirmed it was true. I was heartbroken because I’ve worked with special needs kids all my life – by choice. They’re already underestimated and discriminated against as it is.

Learning that fact and learning it was true was the catalyst to researching the issue more from both sides.

 

It took about 6 months before I called myself pro-life.

The more I read the more I learned I had been on the wrong side. I had to admit I was wrong.”

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Billie is now involved with uOttawa Students for Life, chalking these same messages on campus. Students across Canada shared the pro-life message through the Chalktober Campus Outreach Campaign this month. Photos to come!
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Regret an abortion? You don’t have to be silent

Written by Denae Pellerin from University of Saskatchewan Students for Life

This post original appeared in their student newspaper, The Sheaf. Go to this link and show your support for Denae by responding to the poll at the bottom of the article!

In the midst of the “Shout Your Abortion” campaign, more attention is being drawn to women who don’t regret having an abortion. However, women should be free to talk about abortion, regardless of how they feel about it.

The hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion has recently been trending in response to a motion by the United States Congress to defund Planned Parenthood for one year in order to perform a thorough investigation of its services.

The bill was proposed due to ethical concerns raised in reaction to undercover footage, collected and released by the Centre for Medical Progress, showing Planned Parenthood directors and executives bargaining over the organs and bodies of aborted human fetuses.

“Shout Your Abortion” began with the intent of letting women speak about their relief and happiness in choosing abortion, while simultaneously supporting and defending Planned Parenthood, the United States’ largest abortion provider.

There is plenty of controversy surrounding the allegations against Planned Parenthood as well as the overall moral topic of abortion. However, in the middle of all the political activism and shouting, I cannot help but think of women who do not want to shout their abortions — women who regret their abortions.

The Sexual Health Centre in Saskatoon, previously Planned Parenthood Saskatoon, claims that abortion is less invasive than having one’s tonsils removed — so why would women be upset?

Even if the numbers are small, there are still women who experience pain, regret and guilt due to having had an abortion. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, we can all agree that a woman who regrets her abortion should not have to suffer in silence.

Her experience and feelings are real and they are not a mistake. Just as choosing an abortion can be complicated, the feelings after an abortion can be complicated as well. All women should be invited to speak about their abortion experience without fear.

Women in Canada already have begun to take initiatives to offer freedom to those suffering in silence after an abortion. Beginning in November of 2002, the Silent No More Awareness campaign began in the United States and has since spread to many other countries, including Canada.

Organized by women who have had abortions, they share their stories of confusion, relief, happiness and pain in an effort to reach out to those involved in abortions and in need of healing and empowerment. Their presence alone tells us it is okay to regret an abortion and that there is help.

Containing a wealth of resources, Silent No More is able to direct women to places near to them where they can receive assistance. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, approximately 38,350 abortions were experienced by women under the age of 29 in 2010.

IMG_5381
Students and NCLN staff with members of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign who publicly shared their abortion testimonies at UBC.

Many of our classmates have likely had personal experiences with abortions and should be granted the freedom to share or hold various opinions and stories. University is a time in our lives when we are encouraged to explore all sides of an issue and determine for ourselves what we will do.

However, as debates go on, we must not forget the people behind these issues. When only one idea or message is accepted on campus, we risk hurting those who do not conform to that idea. It’s important that women who regret their abortions are given the opportunity to be listened to without fear of being judged or labeled negatively.

Every woman is important and must be respected, whether or not her emotions promote a particular political stance. If you or a loved one is in need of care, do not hesitate to ask for help. You do not have to be silent — but you also don’t have to shout.

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