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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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Video: Protesters Disrupt Event with MP Stephen Woodworth

Footage of protesters at a presentation by MP Stephen Woodworth at the University of Waterloo on March 13th.

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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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