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National Campus Life Network > Blog > freedom of speech

Youth Protecting Youth: Freedom of Expression Denied at UVic

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

In a move that is unprecedented at the University of Victoria, the university administration cancelled “Choice” Chain, an event that Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), the pro-life club, had formally booked. 

This event has been held at UVic before but in a decision last February, the UVic Students’ Society (UVSS) used this as one reason to strip YPY of the public booking privileges that other clubs have. Because of this YPY contacted UVic directly in November, asking the university to recognize the UVSS’ censorship and to facilitate our booking for another “Choice” Chain. 

Because the request was not submitted ten business days prior to the requested event date, the space booking was rejected. Jim Dunsdon, the Vice President of Student Affairs, told us that he wanted to work with us but that we needed to abide by the university’s policy of ten business days. 

Heeding this advice YPY submitted another space booking request approximately two and a half weeks ago, requesting to book space on the UVic quad from 12:30-2:30pm, February 1st. We met with the university, worked out the details and received a letter approving the space booking. At 4:30pm on Jan 31st, UVic cancelled the event, claiming ignorance of the UVSS’ February decision mentioned above that revoked YPY public booking privileges and ordered that no “’Choice’ Chain or similar events” be held. Deferring to the Students’ Society, the university said it needs to review the appropriateness of the UVSS’ restrictions on YPY’s activities. 

Over the course of the protracted campaign of censorship launched against pro-life students at UVic by the Students’ Society, the university has kept its distance, repeatedly claiming that the UVSS is a separate entity and that the university does not have jurisdiction to intervene. Yesterday’s cancellation contradicts this position and disregards one of UVic’s stated fundamental values: “freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry.[1]

 This cancellation is an infringement on our freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;[2] to which the University of Victoria is bound, insofar as it restricts those freedoms, as an institution funded by the Government of Canada.


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Free Speech Victory

Last fall, we wrote about ‘the Pridgen Precedent’, or the ruling made by Madam Justice J. Strekaf in Pridgen v. University of Calgary.  John Carpay’s recent article gives a good refresher on the case.  This ruling was not about pro-life students or even abortion at all, but the ruling would, we wrote, set a positive precedent for our pro-life students.  Why?  Because the ruling stated that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms DOES, in fact, apply to universities.  And this means that the freedom of speech of students is protected on campus.

The University of Calgary appealed the decision but, last week, the Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the ruling.

John Carpay, who is also the lawyer for the University of Calgary’s Campus Pro-Life group, wrote a column in the National Post regarding the decision.  He wrote:

If universities were private, they would not be engaging in “government action” so as to invite the Charter’s application. But when the University of Calgary obtains over $600 million from taxpayers each year by claiming to be a forum for free expression for all people and for all views, it forfeits its right to censor speech it dislikes. Holding the U of C to account, as this court ruling does, is good news for students and for taxpayers.

In particular, this precedent will help the students in Ontario and Alberta who have taken Carleton University and the University of Calgary to court in regard to the censorship of pro-life viewpoints. But that is a subject for another column.

This is certainly a victory for not just the Pridgens, but also for students nationwide.

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Youth Protecting Youth: UVSS Takes Action against YPY

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

In October of 2010 we hosted Jose Ruba of CCBR, who gave the presentation, “Echoes of the Holocaust.” The UVic Students’ Society Board of Directors has now voted in favour of a motion that will censure YPY for hosting the event because they allege that our actions contravened the club harassment policy. YPY is specifically being reprimanded for advertising the event in such a way that it “misled” students, and allegedly harassed them as it compared abortion to the Holocaust. There seemed to be little consensus at the UVSS board meeting as to whether harassment had actually occurred: many board members seemed to think that since people had been upset, something needed to be done to deal with YPY, whether or not we had actually broken any rules.

 

The Motion:

Whereas a Complaints Committee was struck in response to complaints received regarding an event called “Echos of the Holocaust” hosted by the club Youth Protecting Youth; and

Whereas the complaints committee investigated several different complaints; and

Whereas by hosting an event “Echos of the Holocaust” Youth Protecting Youth allowed for people to be misled about the nature of the event and the Complaints Committee deems this to be in violation of the harassment policy, clubs policy part 2; and

Whereas significant concerns were raised by students about off the conduct of campus groups such as, “The Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform”; and

Whereas the UVSS would like to find long lasting, proactive solutions to reoccurring issues; therefore,

BIRT the UVSS investigate the possibility of mediating with Youth Protecting Youth to help prevent further issues; and

BIFRT Youth Protecting Youth be censured for violating the harassment policy found in clubs policy part 2; and

BIFRT the Political Action Committee hold a restorative justice event; and

BIFRT legal counsel be consulted to investigate if there can be changes to policy that would address concerns around the conduct of off campus groups or speakers.

We hosted the presentation because we believe we continue to experience “echoes of the Holocaust” today. Just as the Holocaust and past genocides are characterized by their unjust denial of personhood to a group of human beings and their systematic destruction of this group, so too do we see denial of personhood and systematic destruction with abortion in our society – the group targeted is the unborn. In two previous blog posts we addressed this comparison and the false accusations made about the event.

Yes, we knew that some people would be offended by the presentation. But what are we supposed to do? Stay quiet to avoid offending some people, while we silently watch 100,000 Canadians die every year because of abortion?

Let us remember that feeling offended and emotionally upset because one disagrees with a viewpoint does not mean one is being harassed. After all, no one has a legal right to be free from offense. Students who see and dislike our posters are not being subjected to a “hostile, intimidating, threatening or humiliating environment.[i]” The Clubs Harassment Policy states that harassment is defined as “treatment” of a person. If merely expressing our beliefs in advertising constituted “treating” people in a harassing manner, then no one would be able to express his or her views without fear of censure.

We are truly sorry that some people felt emotional or upset when they saw our posters. But abortion is emotionally upsetting. We do not want any woman or child to be hurt by abortion, and therefore want to provide students with as much information as possible so they can choose life-affirming options for themselves and their unborn children. This presentation was one way to express these beliefs.

The presentation did not pose a threat to anyone who attended; we are all adults capable of choosing for ourselves what we want to believe, and this presentation did not force anyone to do anything. We simply stated that genocide is horrible, the Holocaust was horrible, and we see that abortion is horrible because like the Holocaust and other widely recognized genocides, it involves the denial of personhood to and subsequent killing of innocent human beings. We wish none of these things ever happened, and we want to better uphold the dignity and value of every human being, born or unborn.

It is unfortunate that the UVSS Board of Directors has chosen to censure YPY and thinks it is necessary to mediate with us and host a restorative justice event. Although we welcome and encourage dialogue on the abortion issue, we have not harassed anyone, and so the actions taken by the board are based on a false “guilty” verdict. In addition, we worry that a policy made to govern who can and cannot speak on campus wouldn’t be applied equally to all clubs, and could be used to censor YPY.

The continued mistreatment of campus pro-life groups is still receiving much media attention, as can be seen in this recent MSN article. Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, cautions student unions that attempt to silence pro-life groups, as doing so sets a precedent for future debates. “When they’re approaching this issue, they should not diminish their responsibility toward ensuring that university campuses are places where ideas can circulate freely.”


[i] UVSS Policy Manual: Clubs Policy. Part F: Harassment: Definition http://www.uvss.uvic.ca/upload/docs/Policy%20and%20Bylaws/2010-11%20Clubs%20Policy%20%28Amended%202010-06-21%29.pdf


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Youth Protecting Youth: Carleton Lifeline Aftermath

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

Earlier in the term, we reported on an event at Carleton University, in which 5 students were arrested for trespassing while attempting a peaceful pro-life display on campus. That post can be found here. Since then, a number of further events have occurred as a result. The club had it’s club status and funding revoked by the Carleton University Students Association (CUSA), resulting from a disagreement over statements in the club’s Constitution. A series of letters have been sent back and forth between the CUSA and Carleton Lifeline, which can be found at the Carleton Lifeline blog. Most recently, Carleton Lifeline has threatened to take legal action against the CUSA regarding the de-certification of Carleton Lifeline and the manner in which it was done. A press release regarding this matter can be found here. Youth Protecting Youth stands in solidarity with Carleton Lifeline and will continue to oppose discrimination based on political and ideological values.


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Youth Protecting Youth: Links on comparing abortion to genocide, and free speech on TV

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

As the date of the “Echoes of the Holocaust” presentation gets closer, and the controversy continues, I invite you to read an excellent piece about the comparison between abortion and the Holocaust (as well as other human rights abuses) written by Zuza Kurzawa, the president of the pro-life club at Queen’s university in Ontario. Zuza was the only non-Carleton student to be arrested October 4, and has written this in response to criticism she has received in regards to her involvement with pro-life outreach that compares abortion to genocide, particulary demands from students on her own campus that she make a formal apology for such comparisons. Definitely worth reading:

http://queensalive.blogspot.com/2010/10/zuza-kurzawa-response-to-critics.html

Also of interest, discussion of the arrests at Carleton and of free speech on university campuses in general on the Michael Coren show tonight.


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Youth Protecting Youth: The Writing on the Wall

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

On Tuesday October 12, students arrived on campus to find that YPY had started advertising an event we are hosting this fall: Jojo Ruba of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR) is coming to give a presentation called “Echoes of the Holocaust”, which compares abortion to genocide.  On Wednesday October 13, we arrived on campus to find that the outdoor chalking advertising the event had been surrounded with phrases including “anti-choice”, “false information”, and “hate speech”. I’d like to address the accusations made by these chalkers, and once again encourage anyone who disagrees with or questions the views of YPY and/or CCBR to come out to the presentation and bring their questions for the question period at the end. I feel like I’m once again responding to the same old ad hominem attacks that miss the point of the abortion issue almost entirely, and I’d like to put things back into perspective. We don’t need to talk about what kind of people pro-lifers are; we need to talk about whether the unborn are people.

 

Some of the chalk surrounding our event announcement

Original chalk announcement: "YPY Presents "Echoes of the Holocaust" w/ Jojo Ruba. Oct. 26, 5:30, SCI B150"

 

I’ll quote the chalk comments one by one and respond to them. If I miss any, feel free to add them in the comments.

“This presentation compares abortion to genocide.”/ “This presentation compares abortion to the Holocaust.”

This is true. The presentation compares abortion to genocide, and specifically to the Holocaust.

For a basic explanation as to why the comparison is made, check out “Is Abortion Genocide?” on CCBR’s website.

For a chart outlining parallels between abortion and other historical atrocities, check out “Is Abortion Comparable to Historical Atrocities?” on CCBR’s website.

“Anti-choice”

Choice to do what? I’m pro-choice when it comes to who to vote for, what kind of food to eat, and many, many other things. I’m against some choices, though. I’m anti-choice when it comes to things like assault and murder. We have a lot of choices in life, but when our choices involve killing or harming other human beings, it quickly becomes obvious that some choices are wrong. Killing or harming other human beings is wrong.

I’m against abortion. Why? Because every successful abortion ends the life of a human being. Images of tiny, bloodied hands and feet show us the results of this “choice”. They’re uncomfortable to look at because they show an unpleasant reality: a tiny human being who has been torn apart by a doctor using surgical instruments. In The Case for Life, Scott Klusendorf quotes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy as he describes common dismemberment abortion techniques: “The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: it bleeds to death as it is torn from limb to limb…. The fetus can be alive at the beginning of the dismemberment process and can survive for a time while its limbs are being torn off…. Dr. [Leroy] Carhart [the abortionist who challenged Nebraska’s partial-birth ban] has observed fetal heartbeat…. with ‘extensive parts of the fetus removed,’…. and testified that mere dismemberment of a limb does not always cause death because he knows of a physician who removed the arm of a fetus only to have the fetus go on to be born ‘as a living child with one arm.” …At the conclusion of a D&E abortion… the abortionist is left with ‘a tray full of pieces’.”

So yes, I’m against that “choice”.

For more on “choice” and other assumptions those arguing in favour of abortion may make (while ignoring the question “what are the unborn?”), see “Assumptions Abortion Advocates Make” on CCBR’s website.

“Anti-woman”/ “Compares women who have abortions to Nazis”

YPY believes in judging actions, not judging people. In comparing abortion to genocide, the actions and victims are compared. Rabbi Yehuda Levin, of New York, stated this very well when he said,

“Each form of genocide, whether Holocaust, lynching, or abortion, differs from all the others in the motives and methods of its perpetrators. But each form of genocide is identical to all the others in that it involves the systematic slaughter, as state-sanctioned ‘choice,’ of innocent, defenseless victims—while denying their ‘personhood.’”

For a detailed discussion of how comparing abortion to genocide is not equivalent to calling women Nazis, see this post by a member of YPY.

Or see CCBR’s response in their FAQ.

“Anti-Semitic”/ “Racist”

Merriam-Webster defines anti-Semitism as “hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.” Simply put, the presentation is none of those things. In comparing abortion to historical atrocities such as the Holocaust (and noting that the fact that two things are comparable does not mean they are identical – just as a sound and its echo are similar but not identical), pro-life advocates readily recognize that the Holocaust was a terrible tragedy, and that any instance of a group of humans being classified as non-persons and then subjected to horrible treatment or killed is a great injustice that should be recognized as such and stopped.

Again, we return to the fundamental in the abortion debate: “what are the unborn?” If the unborn are not human persons, then comparing them to the victims of past genocide is insensitive. If the unborn are human persons, however, then 42 million people are killed worldwide each year, often by being torn apart with surgical instruments. Comparison to past genocides is completely logical.

For more on this, check out the FAQ on CCBR’s website.

“False information”

I’d be interested to know what information the person who wrote this thinks is false. To my knowledge, the presentation contains no false information whatsoever. If in fact it does contain some, I’m sure it would be appreciated if someone would politely point it out during the question period.

“Hate speech”/ Jojo Ruba being a “hate speaker”

Hate speech is a criminal offense in Canada, so this is a serious allegation. If we look at the Criminal Code however, we see that the allegation is blatantly false. There are two main types of speech defined as hate speech in the Criminal Code: advocating genocide and public incitement of hatred.

A presentation that condemns all forms and instances of genocide obviously does not advocate or promote genocide. Making the case that abortion is comparable to historical instances of genocide is meant to illustrate that abortion is wrong, not that any form of genocide is good.

The presentation does not incite hatred against anyone. As stated above, we believe in judging actions, not judging people, and in recognizing the intrinsic value and dignity of all human beings.

While we’re looking at the Criminal Code, though, I’m pretty sure publicly making false accusations of hate-speech, anti-Semitism, and sexism falls under the definition of “defamatory libel.”

The real problem, though, is that all of these complaints about the presentation miss the point of the abortion debate entirely.

What if I was some horrible, racist, sexist person (I’m not), who knew the truth on a certain matter? Would it matter that I was horribly racist or sexist? The truth is the truth no matter who says it. The truth is what we are trying to find, in all things, especially moral debates. In the abortion debate, the most important question is “what are the unborn?”. As Greg Koukl points out, “If the unborn are not human, no justification for elective abortion is necessary. But if the unborn are human, no justification for elective abortion is adequate.”

We hope to see you at “Echoes of the Holocaust”.

(The presentation will take place at 5:30 pm on October 26 in the Wright Centre – SCI B150)


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.