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.

University of Toronto Students for Life: Pro-life Student Protesters Arrested at Carleton [updated]

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

Updated: more details in an Updated post

Photo Credit: Hilary Roberts, The Charlatan

The Charlatan, Carleton’s campus newspaper, reports that five pro-life protesters were arrested at the University of Carleton this morning. Four were Carleton students, and one was a Queen’s student. [video clip] Updated: detailed video

The five people were on campus to set up a visual display in Carleton’s quad showcasing images of abortion and comparing it to genocides such as the Holocaust, Lobo said.

Jason MacDonald, director of Carleton’s department of university communications, said the group had requested to set up in the Academic Quad but were told to set up in Porter Hall.

MacDonald said all five were charged under Ontario’s Trespass to Property Act.

They have now been released with Provincial Offense Notices.

Details are still scarce, but this seems pretty outrageous. Students get charged with protesting on their own campus? I’d like to know what steps were taken between the university discovering that the students had set up were they were told not to, and their being arrested and charged with trespassing under provincial law. Were the students asked to leave, and did they refuse? Or was this a heavy-handed response to send a message?

Also, someone who knows the Carleton campus better will have to confirm this, but I get the impression that the Academic Quad is outdoors, while Porter Hall is not. It’d be like if we were told to “protest” in Father Madden Hall instead of the Sid Smith patio. That kind of defeats the point of a protest, and I wonder how many other student groups get arrested if they don’t protest inside. It could be that the students decided to challenge an unfair restriction, that typically isn’t applied to other protesters and would totally undermine the purpose of a protest.

If that’s the case, a talk delivered by lawyer John Carpay at the NCLN Symposium this past weekend will be very relevant… He’s the lawyer representing the University of Calgary students who were charged with trespassing on their own campus for putting on a GAP display. In that case, however, the University stayed the charges days before they were due to appear in court, likely because they didn’t have a strong enough case. Since then, they haven’t tried the trespassing charge again, but they’re trying to bully the students with non-academic misconduct charges and the threat of expulsion. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember seeing images of U of C students in handcuffs… I’m pretty sure they were charged, but not arrested. Carpay’s opinion was that there was too much media attention, and the university would get bad press for cracking down on student speech so visibly. Someone at Carleton didn’t get the memo.

Now, I don’t know the difference between Alberta and Ontario’s trespassing laws, but it seems pretty ridiculous to charge students paying tuition for trespassing on their own campus. Even for the Queen’s student, I’d love to know what steps were taken before the handcuffs went on. Were the protesters asked to leave? Or were they just arrested right away?

My guess is that, regardless, Carleton will come to regret this ridiculous show of force. It’s censorship, and it’s bullying, and I’d love to know what other protest groups have been charged for trespassing on their own campus, and I wonder if Carleton will actually try to defend this in court, which Calgary was unwilling to do. If the University of Calgary is any indication though, these students are in for a long battle. This is more about intimidation than it is about the law.

Carpay also highly recommended the EFC’s reference guide for students and their legal counsel on the law and legal principles involve with pro-life campus club challenges. Highly recommended. I’ve only had a chance to skim it so far, but maybe we’ll dig into it a bit deeper later on.

Lastly, I hope this isn’t an emerging trend of pro-life protesters being arrested for showing images of what abortion actually is…

For now, just waiting for more news from Carleton…

Updated: Craig, one of the pro-lifers arrested, provides some more details in the comments.

Updated: The CCBR has photos.

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