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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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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: 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.

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

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.

-30-

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

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

http://kwantlenprotectoresvitae.ncln.ca/

Image taken from the National Post article: 

http://www.ncln.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/oliver-capko-1.jpg

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Press Release: B.C. Pro-Life Student Group Denied Right to Exist on their University Campus

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Kwantlen Pro-Life Student Group Denied Right to Exist on their University Campus

LANGLEY, B.C. (November 27 2012) – Students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University have obtained legal representation to fight a recent rejection by the student union of their application to form a pro-life club on campus.

The Kwantlen Student Association (KSA), which represents the students from the university’s four Vancouver Metro area campuses, explained its decision by stating that the creation of the Protectores Vitae club “is clearly against our own standing policy on Abortion and a Woman’s Right to Choose.”

“We’re very disappointed,” said Oliver Capko, president of the pro-life group. “Our student association is supposed to represent us and not censor us for having a different position.”

“They are in violation of their own policies,” stated Anastasia Pearse, the Western Campus Coordinator for National Campus Life Network, an organization which supports pro-life students across Canada. “Their own policy states that the association can’t censor or interfere with a club, even if it disagrees with its beliefs. Free speech and debate, even on controversial issues, should not be stifled at a university simply because those in positions of authority are pro-choice.”

It also appears that the association may have made amendments on October 26 to Article 2 of its Club Procedures Policy in an attempt to create a stronger basis for denying status. The changes significantly increased the ways in which the student association could justify the denial of club recognition.

The club is demanding that the Kwantlen Student Association grant them status. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) has taken the case and is acting on behalf of Protectores Vitae.

“We sincerely hope that it will not be necessary for Mr. Capko and other students to sue the KSA,” said John Carpay, lawyer and President of the JCCF. “The student union has no legal authority to impose its own views about a moral or political issue on all students by denying club status to students who disagree with the student union. The student union has an obligation to treat all students equally and fairly, without denying the right of students to freely associate on the Kwantlen campus and form the clubs of their own choosing.”

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For media requests, please contact:

Oliver Capko, President Protectores Vitae, kwanlenprotectoresvitae@hotmail.com, 604-772-1156

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

 

Further details can be found on the club’s website.  

To support free speech at Kwantlen, click here.

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