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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From Apathy to Conviction

On Censorship and the Virtue of Refusing to Shut Up

By Chad Hagel, NCLN Intern and President of UTM Students For Life

When I booted up my phone on August 26th, 2015, the words on the screen stopped me cold. I had been looking forward to spending the last few days of summer relaxing and preparing for my third year at the University of Toronto Mississauga without tension. Alas, it was not to be. One of my fellow pro-life club executives, Cameron, was informing me that he had received an email from our Student Union telling us that our club status for the 2015-2016 year had been revoked. We were told little more than that, but it was as if the large flame of peace I had been nurturing had been extinguished. Even though it had not quite begun, our second year operating as a club had gotten off to a rough start already.

Over the next five months, I experienced a whirlwind of emotions as we first strove to find out why we had been censored. We decided to enlist legal aid while attempting to reconcile with the Student Union, and finally we chose to enter into a lawsuit, which has yet to be settled. The constant bombardment of stress and frustration—on top of my academic life—took a significant toll on me, and I reduced my course load in the second semester so I could recharge and refocus my energies.

In so doing, I was able to reflect on my position in the pro-life movement. I encountered a staggering revelation: since my involvement in pro-life work on campus, I had become firmly committed to speaking strongly against the greatest human rights injustice of our time. This revelation became all the more staggering as I remembered my mindset as I’d signed the club’s mailing list in 2014: apathetic, just doing it because it was expected of me.

How did I get to this point?

Before I explain how, I want to make a point about how apathy functions in the pro-life movement. It’s like a canker sore. When you get a canker sore—especially around your lips—it’s painful. It affects how you eat, how you breathe and how you talk. In short, it doesn’t just affect your lip; it affects how you interact with the people around you. It’s much the same with apathy. If someone’s apathetic, their apathy affects not just them, but the people around them. Apathy breeds more apathy, and apathy is something we cannot afford to have in the pro-life movement.

However, there is hope. Just as a canker sore recedes with time, apathy can be tackled and brought into conviction. That’s what I’m here to emphasize – how to move apathetic pro-lifers in your pro-life campus club to conviction. Here are some beginning methods:

  1. Create a supportive environment. One of the greatest boons I enjoyed in struggling with my Student Union was the support I received from NCLN and my local Right to Life group. They assisted me in numerous ways, most of all emotionally. They led me from apathy to conviction. Further, build that support network not just with pro-life organizations, but also within your club! Meet up with your members outside of activism and exec meetings for coffee. Ask them how they are doing outside of the pro-life cause. Get to know them as a whole person. Invite them to approach you if they have any concerns about being in the club, or anything else related. Be there for them.
  2. Implement a theory of change. As current president of Toronto Right to Life, Blaise Alleyne, once put it, pro-life organizations should not focus solely on doing activities for the sake of doing activities, but should look toward the broader picture. He calls the former a theory of action, the latter a theory of change. He argues that instead of doing activities that make us look busy, we are to do activities that are grounded on the principles of saving lives and making abortion unthinkable. Emulate this in your own club. Look hard at what you are planning for the upcoming year. Is it just busy work? Or is it planned with purpose, with an end goal in sight? How will your activism be effective in ending the killing of preborn humans? These and other such questions will help ground your club in a spirit of change, which will diminish the stain of apathy and allow convicted leaders to develop.
  3. Maintain your compassionate care. In my experience, I know that when I go to events and have no response – either mentally or emotionally – and have that apathy reciprocated by the event organizers, I am unlikely to come back. If the organizers didn’t care, how likely am I to care? Similarly, be careful to present your caring face to those you meet in the pro-life movement, in your club as well as in your activism. Just as you would extend care and compassion to the post-abortive woman, be sure to extend care and compassion to your club members. If they call you, call them back. If they text you, text them back. If they want to talk to you in private, respect their wishes and move to a quiet place. When you debrief after activism, make sure you ask them how it went, and listen to them. Listen to people–it is an indirect way of showing you care about them.

Although this is hardly an exhaustive list, do these small things and you will witness a blossoming of passionate pro-lifers in your campus club.

In the end, however, it is important to remember that the convicted pro-lifer will get tired. This is an inherent part of the human condition. When that happens, remind them of how they were. Ignite that spark. Be their support. Follow through. Look towards the bigger picture. Even though that may not be enough to restore the energies of your team member, it will certainly work for you: you will become further convicted of the need to have a pro-life presence on your campus. And that, really, is what we need: leaders determined to carry on the fight to save the preborn.

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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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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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Youth Protecting Youth: THEFT AND VANDALISM AGAINST PRO-LIFERS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA

This post was written for Youth Protecting Youth by youthprotectingyouth. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

Victoria, B.C. (September 11, 2014): On September 10th, two women rushed a pro-life club table at the University of Victoria, snatching the fetal models on display and dumping used cat litter all over the table. Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) was participating in the university’s Clubs Days event and had a recruitment table to sign up new members and engage with other students on the pro-life issues.IMG_20140910_095529035

Although the fetal models were recovered, club members arrived back this morning to find that the vandals had broken into the closed clubs room and that more filthy litter had been dumped on the table and the fetal models – valued at several hundred dollars – had been stolen.

“This kind of behaviour calls into question whether UVic is an environment where people can express their opinions and beliefs without such disrespectful opposition,” stated Adrian Canagasuriam, co-president of the club. “Other clubs and the student body need to be reminded that this kind of criminal behaviour has no place on a Canadian university campus.”

After speaking with campus security, club members made a police report with local authorities.

received_m_mid_1410383571133_ffb87cd4fbfb4a2319_0The club demanded that the University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS) formally condemn the actions of the vandals, and the UVSS has agreed to issue a statement doing so.

“In previous years the UVSS has attempted to ban and censure the club and was sued by the club in 2010,” stated Anastasia Pearse, Western Campus Coordinator for National Campus Life Network, a national organization that supports pro-life students. “It’s reassuring to see that student society representatives were helpful and apologetic in the wake of this incident and we look forward to a strong statement from the UVSS condemning this theft and vandalism.”

“This incident has not prevented us from continuing our outreach,” commented Kimberley Van Der Pijl, who witnessed yesterday’s attack and serves as co-president of the club. “We’ve had very positive conversations with so many students and many have signed up for the club.”
The members of YPY hope that the fetal models will be recovered, and that students who disagree with their message will learn to voice their disagreement in a mature, respectful manner.

 

 

 

 

For additional information or comments, please contact:

Anastasia Pearse,
Western Campus Coordinator, National Campus Life Network,
westerncanada@ncln.ca  604-365-3484 (tel: 604-365-3484)

Adrian Canagasuriam
President, Youth Protecting Youth, UVic
youthprotectingyouth@gmail.com


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

News release: Motion to Ban University of Manitoba Pro-Life Club Defeated But Concerns Regarding Future Censorship Remain

News Release

MOTION TO BAN UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA PRO-LIFE CLUB DEFEATED BUT CONCERNS REGARDING FUTURE CENSORSHIP REMAIN

WINNIPEG, MB (October 9 2013) – On the evening of October 7th, the University of Manitoba Students for a Culture of Life (UMSCL) were glad to witness the defeat of a motion calling for the revocation of their club status. However, they are continuing to express concern about two other motions passed by the University of Manitoba Student Union (UMSU).

“We were encouraged to hear members of the council defend free speech on campus and see the motion to revoke our student group status defeated soundly,” states Cara Ginter, vice-president of UMSCL. “Unfortunately, two other motions were passed that could be used to censor our student group and others in the future.”

The first motion was put forward by two students as a response to a pro-life display hosted by the club September 23-25. This display, called the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), uses large posters with pictures of aborted fetuses and victims of historical genocides to argue that abortion is a human rights violation. Council members, including Nursing, Law, and Education representatives, spoke against the motion and it was ultimately defeated.

Two other motions were also presented by the council’s Student Group Promotions and Affairs Committee (SGPAC), which express concern over the content of the display and resolving that (1) the council meet with the university administration “to push for a reconsideration of the review and approval process for public displays” and (2) that the policies governing the penalization of clubs and revocation of club status be reviewed and clarified.

“We applaud the student union’s defeat of the first motion and hope they will use that good sense moving forward,” states Anastasia Pearse, Western Campus Coordinator for National Campus Life Network (NCLN), an organization that supports pro-life students in Canada. “UMSU is certainly within its rights to review its own policies and even discuss the display approval process with the administration – as long as they don’t attempt to hinder the club’s right to exist and exercise its freedom of expression on campus.”

“The display was a great opportunity to dialogue with students about the issue of abortion,” says Ginter. “We’re looking forward to continuing this conversation over the course of the year, educating our peers about this important human rights issue.”

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For more information please contact:

Cara Ginter, vice-president, University of Manitoba Students for a Culture of Life: caraginter@hotmail.com

Anastasia Pearse, Western Campus Coordinator for National Campus Life Network: westerncanada@ncln.ca

John Carpay, JCCF President and lawyer acting for the students: 403-619-8014, jcarpay@jccf.ca.

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