What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into?

By Rebecca Richmond

I was new on the job and only a recent grad myself on October 4th, 2010. The NCLN Symposium had just finished and we caught a train to Ottawa to help out Carleton Lifeline as they put on the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP).  Well, as they tried to anyway.

Carleton arrests resizedMy job that morning was to take photos just in case.  And take photos I did, recording moments that seem more like a dream than a memory: friends being handcuffed and driven away in police vans.

What had I gotten myself into?

Three years later, as I enter my fourth year on staff with NCLN, I often find myself wondering the same thing. As do, I know, too many students who may not have to face handcuffs, but still have to fight long and hard for their rights on campus.

Since joining staff with NCLN I have worked with clubs coast-to-coast as they face discrimination. This fall is no different. Just one month has passed since school has started and already clubs are fighting opposition.

In Winnipeg this coming Monday, the University of Manitoba Student Union will vote on a motion to ban the pro-life club on campus – University of Manitoba Students for a Culture of Life – because the club ran the Genocide Awareness Project  (GAP) last week.  While the university acknowledged the free speech rights of the students to run the display, the student union members appear to require a bit more education on what freedom of expression entails.

In Victoria the legal representative and former president of the University of Victoria’s pro-life club, Youth Protecting Youth, is suing the university because of the censorship of the club’s “Choice” Chain event last winter and the restrictions placed on the club to prevent them from hosting similar events. 

And these are just the recent developments. It would take longer than one article to go through everything students went through last year – or even last semester.

So what have we gotten ourselves into?

We’re in a human rights movement, a culture war, a battle for the soul of a nation.   We fight for the very principle that holds – or ought to hold – our society together: that human life is valuable and that all humans, no matter what their abilities or circumstances might be, have a right to life.  We are counter-cultural and, as such, we challenge our society.  When we speak truth, it unsettles, disturbs and offends those who would rather remain in denial. When we speak up, others may try to shout us down or shut us down.  It has always been this way; why should we expect any different?  But we must also ask ourselves, what cause was won without sacrifice?  What victory was secured without a price?

No, it’s not fair.  And we will fight for fair and equal treatment for pro-life students.  But we do so, or at least the students and NCLN do so, because of the cause that got us into trouble in the first place.  When we fight for our rights, we do so not for ourselves, but for those we fight for: the preborn children who are being slaughtered every day in our country and for their wounded moms and dads.

It would be easy to say that we’ll take up the challenge after our education, when we have a steady job and a few more letters behind our name, when we have more time and aren’t constrained by midterms, papers or our course schedule.  But we cannot wait until tomorrow when we are presently in such a critically important environment.  Being a university pro-life activist might cost us something but I also believe, like Martin Luther King Jr. did, that it is worth the cost.

“Make a career of humanity,” he said, “Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

But ultimately it is the lives on the line that keeps us going when the opposition mounts.  It is the witness of friends, like the students arrested at Carleton in 2010, who inspire us.  It is the truth awakened in our own hearts that compels us to end the injustice of abortion and build a Culture of Life – starting with our campuses.

 

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Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms Asks University of Waterloo to Safeguard Free Speech on Campus

Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

 

The President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), John Carpay, called on the University of Waterloo to safeguard free speech on campus after yesterday evening’s incident.

 

In a letter to Dr. Hamdullahpur, president of the university, Mr. Carpay reminded him of the similar incident in November 2010 when journalist and author Christie Blatchford was prevented from speaking by raucous protesters.  He reminded Dr. Hamdullahpur that the university apologized to Ms. Blatchford the following day stating:

The University of Waterloo was disappointed that a guest invited to share a particular perspective on a topic of importance to Canadians was silenced by protesters….

 The university considers Friday’s events as an attack on its presence as a place where issues are explored, discussed and at times debated.  The freedom to speak and to learn is fundamental to the institution.  Waterloo’s ethical behaviour policy states: ‘The University is an autonomous community which exists to further the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge and understanding through scholarship and teaching.  The University aims to ensure an environment of tolerance and respect and believes that the right of individuals to advance their views openly must be upheld throughout the University.’  To ensure there is no doubt of the university’s convictions, Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur apologized to Ms. Blatchford, on behalf of the university community, for Friday night’s disruption. He has asked the community to begin planning for a safe, open and respectful dialogue featuring Ms. Blatchford and her book.”

Mr. Carpay took issue with the manner in which security would not intervene to allow the event to continue and made the following request to the university:

I request that you uphold the free expression rights of those who have planned and organized the screening of “It’s a Girl” on your campus at 7:00 p.m. this evening, as well as the free expression rights of audience members who wish to listen and to participate in thoughtful discussion and debate.

I also request that you apologize to Mr. Woodworth for what happened.  I ask you to express your commitment to campus free speech by re-scheduling another speaking opportunity for Mr. Woodworth at the University of Waterloo, and providing proper security at the next event to ensure it is not shut down by those who disagree.

The full text of the letter can be accessed here.

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Press Release: Protesters Prevent MP from Speaking at University of Waterloo

Press Release

PROTESTERS DISRUPT PRESENTATION BY MP STEPHEN WOODWORTH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO

WATERLOO, ON (March 14 2013) – An event with MP Stephen Woodworth at the University of Waterloo yesterday was derailed as protestors shouted down the speaker, preventing Mr. Woodworth from continuing his presentation to the students assembled.

“We understand that there are strong opinions when it comes to an issue like abortion,” says Hannah Bailey, President of Waterloo Students for Life, which had organized the presentation. “But we expected better from our peers at the university. Their behaviour was an embarrassment to the entire university community.”

Mr. Woodworth, MP for the Kitchener Centre riding, had brought forward Motion 312 at the House of Commons last year, which called for a re-examination of the 400 year-old definition of a human being in the Canadian Criminal Code. His presentation on Wednesday was to address that topic as well as to take questions from the audience. Mr. Woodworth was only able to get through one third of the presentation before the chanting and yelling prevented him from being heard.

Although campus security was present, they failed to take any kind of action to allow Mr. Woodworth to continue his presentation. When asked to intervene they declined to do so, stating that unless the protesters became violent, they could not step in.

“This is an elected member of our government speaking at an institution that is supposed to have a high value for free speech,” states Clarissa Luluquisin who was in attendance and is the Central Campus Coordinator of the National Campus Life Network, which supports pro-life groups across Canada. “Instead of respectfully listening and then asking questions, we see that the protestors preferred to cling to a few pieces of rhetoric rather than listening to anything Mr. Woodworth might say.”

Despite the disruptions to this event, Waterloo Students for Life will be going ahead with a screening of the award winning documentary ‘It’s a Girl’ tonight in room 308 of the J.R. Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall (RCH) at 7:00 p.m.

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A video clip of the incident can be found at: http://www.ncln.ca/blog/uwvideo/

For further comment, please contact: Hannah Bailey, President of Waterloo Students for Life, uwstudentsforlife@gmail.com.

Clarissa Luluquisin, Central Campus Coordinator of NCLN, central@ncln.ca, 416 970 3059.

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Press Release: Pro-Life Club Banned at Trent University in Peterborough

Press Release

PRO-LIFE CLUB BANNED AT TRENT UNIVERSITY IN PETERBOROUGH

PETERBOROUGH, ON (February 7, 2013) – Students applying to form a pro-life club at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario were rejected by the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) last week on grounds that such a club would be ‘exclusive’. Trent Lifeline has secured legal counsel and is demanding that the decision be reversed and club status granted.

“The purpose of Trent Lifeline is to engage with the student body regardless of what someone’s position is on abortion,” said Heather Anne Robertson, President of Trent Lifeline. “Anyone can bring their ideas and opinions to the discussion. To exclude us in the name of being inclusive is absurd.”

In response to its application, Trent Lifeline received an email from the TCSA Club & Group Coordinator informing them that “campaigning for pro life or pro choice is not allowed on campus as well since there is [sic] so many opinions to this it can lead to a very exclusive group, while all clubs at Trent University must be inclusive.” After requesting more information on the policies upon which this decision was based, Lifeline was informed that a policy could not be sent “as there is one working under way.”

“The student association is supposed to serve its members and not selectively exclude one group of them who take a position on a controversial human rights issue,” stated Rebecca Richmond, Executive Director of the National Campus Life Network, an organization that exists to support pro-life students in Canada. “The fact that the TCSA may be re-writing its policies to justify its discrimination against this club is also disconcerting.”

A letter from Trent Lifeline’s legal counsel, John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, was sent to the President of TCSA on February 6th. This letter calls for a reversal of the decision to reject Lifeline’s application, and explains why and how the student union’s conduct is illegal.

“We hope that the student union will reverse its decision, thereby removing the need for court action. However, if necessary, we will seek a Court Order to uphold the free speech rights and freedom of association rights of these students,” stated Carpay.

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For media requests, please contact:

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

Rebecca Richmond, Executive Director of the National Campus Life Network, director@ncln.ca, 416 388 0461.

Heather Anne Robertson, President of Trent Lifeline, lifelinetrent@gmail.com, http://trentlifeline.ncln.ca

 

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Kwantlen Protectores Vitae: Kwantlen Student Association Rescinds Earlier Decision and Grants Pro-Life Club Status

This post was written for Kwantlen Protectores Vitae by Kwantlen Protectores Vitae. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Kwantlen Student Association Rescinds Earlier Decision and Grants Pro-Life Club Status

LANGLEY, B.C. (December 6 2012) – In the midst of preparing to file a lawsuit against their student association for discrimination, the pro-life student group at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in B.C. has been granted full club status.

The Runner, the Kwantlen student newspaper, reported that the Kwantlen Student Association (KSA) reversed its earlier decision during a two-hour in-camera session on December 5th, and has now granted Protectores Vitae (Protectors of Life) formal status as a campus club. The specific content of any motions from the meeting was not made available, nor was the record of how the individual board members voted. Oliver Capko, the president of Protectores Vitae, was contacted later that evening by Christopher Girodat, the Chairperson of the KSA Executive Committee, who informed him of the decision.

“I am relieved that the issue has been resolved,” said Oliver. “After working towards this all semester, it is great to finally be accepted and treated like other clubs on campus.”

This decision by the Kwantlen Student Association was a reversal of its November 9th decision, which rejected the group’s application on the grounds that it conflicted with the student union’s pro-choice policy on abortion. Protectores Vitae secured legal representation from the Justice Centre, and demanded that the student association rescind their decision and, when the KSA did not, Protectores Vitae prepared to file a lawsuit.

“The Justice Centre has invested a lot of time in legal research and preparing the court documents, but we are happy that it will not be necessary to commence a court action against this discrimination,” stated Calgary lawyer John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.

“This has not been the first time such discrimination against pro-life groups has happened on university campuses,” commented Anastasia Pearse on behalf of the National Campus Life Network. “We hope that other student associations will learn from Kwantlen’s example so that this won’t happen again.”

The students of Protectores Vitae, who are currently in the midst of exam season, plan to begin club activities on campus in the New Year.

“Now that we no longer have to fight against discrimination, we can actually focus on why we wanted to start this club in the first place,” said Oliver. “It’s important that bioethical issues, like abortion, are raised on campus and we look forward to being part of that conversation here at Kwantlen.”

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For media requests, please contact:

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

Anastasia Pearse, National Campus Life Network, westerncanada@ncln.ca, 604 365 3484

Oliver Capko, President Protectores Vitae, kwantlenprotectoresvitae@hotmail.com, http://kwantlenprotectoresvitae.ncln.ca/

Read the comments at the Kwantlen Protectores Vitae website.

Kwantlen Student Association Rescinds Earlier Decision and Grants Pro-Life Club Status

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Kwantlen Student Association Rescinds Earlier Decision and Grants Pro-Life Club Status

LANGLEY, B.C. (December 6 2012) – In the midst of preparing to file a lawsuit against their student association for discrimination, the pro-life student group at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in B.C. has been granted full club status.

The Runner, the Kwantlen student newspaper, reported that the Kwantlen Student Association (KSA) reversed its earlier decision during a two-hour in-camera session on December 5th, and has now granted Protectores Vitae (Protectors of Life) formal status as a campus club. The specific content of any motions from the meeting was not made available, nor was the record of how the individual board members voted. Oliver Capko, the president of Protectores Vitae, was contacted later that evening by Christopher Girodat, the Chairperson of the KSA Executive Committee, who informed him of the decision.

“I am relieved that the issue has been resolved,” said Oliver. “After working towards this all semester, it is great to finally be accepted and treated like other clubs on campus.”

This decision by the Kwantlen Student Association was a reversal of its November 9th decision, which rejected the group’s application on the grounds that it conflicted with the student union’s pro-choice policy on abortion. Protectores Vitae secured legal representation from the Justice Centre, and demanded that the student association rescind their decision and, when the KSA did not, Protectores Vitae prepared to file a lawsuit.

“The Justice Centre has invested a lot of time in legal research and preparing the court documents, but we are happy that it will not be necessary to commence a court action against this discrimination,” stated Calgary lawyer John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.

“This has not been the first time such discrimination against pro-life groups has happened on university campuses,” commented Anastasia Pearse on behalf of the National Campus Life Network. “We hope that other student associations will learn from Kwantlen’s example so that this won’t happen again.”

The students of Protectores Vitae, who are currently in the midst of exam season, plan to begin club activities on campus in the New Year.

“Now that we no longer have to fight against discrimination, we can actually focus on why we wanted to start this club in the first place,” said Oliver. “It’s important that bioethical issues, like abortion, are raised on campus and we look forward to being part of that conversation here at Kwantlen.”

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For media requests, please contact:

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

Anastasia Pearse, National Campus Life Network, westerncanada@ncln.ca, 604 365 3484

Oliver Capko, President Protectores Vitae, kwantlenprotectoresvitae@hotmail.com, http://kwantlenprotectoresvitae.ncln.ca/

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Kwantlen Protectores Vitae: Pro-Life Students to Take Kwantlen Student Association to Court for Discrimination

This post was written for Kwantlen Protectores Vitae by Kwantlen Protectores Vitae. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Pro-Life Students to Take Kwantlen Student Association to Court for Discrimination

LANGLEY, B.C. (December 3 2012) – Protectores Vitae, the pro-life group at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, has announced that it will be taking the Kwantlen Student Association (KSA) to court after the KSA failed to rescind the decision that denied the group the right to exist on campus.

Court documents are expected to be completed and filed the week of December 10-14. These documents will be made available on the club’s website after having been filed at court.

“After discussion amongst Protectores Vitae members, we have decided to move forward with the lawsuit,” said Oliver Capko, president of the pro-life student group. “It is unfortunate that we have to sue our own student representatives in order to secure equal and fair treatment on campus.”

Legal representation for the Kwantlen Student Association did bring forward an offer to grant Protectores Vitae status as a “recognized group” but not campus club status on par with 33 other clubs. Recognized group status is granted to religious and political party groups, or those that exist to support a specific external organization. Clubs, on the other hand, can be academic, athletic, social, cultural “or other purpose that seeks to enrich the extracurricular lives of students through their time at Kwantlen University,” according to the KSA Clubs Package.

“We are an autonomous group, without affiliation to any other external organization,” stated Oliver Capko. “We are not religious, nor are we political. Our activities would lead to consideration of bio-ethical issues at Kwantlen, which would surely enrich the extracurricular experience of students. That is why we applied for club status and not for recognized group status.”

“Student unions need to recognize and fund all student groups, or none of them. The student union politicians have no legal authority to fund only groups that they like and agree with, while denying funding to groups they disagree with,” stated Oliver Capko’s lawyer, John Carpay.

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For media requests, please contact:
John Carpay, President, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, 403-619-8014 or jcarpay@jccf.ca

Anastasia Pearse, Western Campus Coordinator of the National Campus Life Network, westerncanada@ncln.ca, 604 365 3484

Oliver Capko, President Protectores Vitae, kwantlenprotectoresvitae@hotmail.com,

Read the comments at the Kwantlen Protectores Vitae website.

Support Free Speech at Kwantlen

From the website of Protectores Vitae:

If you would like to express your support for Protectores Vitae, you can write to the Executive of the Kwantlen Student Association. (Please keep emails civil. Thank you.)

Director of External Affairs: Arzo Ansary — external@kusa.ca
Director of Student Services: Cristopher Girodat – services@kusa.ca
Director of Student Life: Amrit Mahil — studentlife@kusa.ca
Director of Finance: Tony Chiao — finance@kusa.ca

 

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