fbpx

University of Victoria Pro-Life Club Censored Once Again

February 7, 2012: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

University of Victoria Pro-Life Club Censored Once Again

Victoria B.C.-The University of Victoria Student’s Society (UVSS) Board of Directors passed two motions to publicly censure the pro-life club on campus, Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) last night, February 6th. The first motion was put forward in response to complaints stemming from an event the club held last November called “Choice” Chain and charged the students with violating the UVSS Harassment Policy. The second motion was passed in response to a poster the club put up on campus in October. As a result, YPY will be denied their ability to book public space on campus for their events and is forbidden to hold “Choice” Chain or other similar events. The club is also banned from putting up posters until a new policy is written by the UVSS to govern poster content. The board also ordered YPY to write a letter of apology to groups who were offended by the poster.

“Choice” Chain is a project developed by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) and consists of volunteers holding three by four foot signs with graphic images of first trimester aborted fetuses. The volunteers engage passers-by in dialogue about abortion. More information about the project can be found here: http://www.unmaskingchoice.ca/projects/choicechain

“This is a disappointing development,” said Cameron Côté, YPY Vice-President and coordinator of the “Choice” Chain event. “People may have felt offended by the images but that in no way constitutes harassment. If you merely have to claim your feelings were hurt or you disliked someone’s message or way of expressing themselves to find that person guilty of harassment, freedom of speech ceases to exist. While we recognize that some people do not like our message, that doesn’t mean we should be censored.  ”

Campus Outreach Director for CCBR, Alanna Gomez, stated, “The charges of harassment have no grounds. There were no complaints made about the conduct of the students, because they acted respectfully and peacefully. The only complaints were based on the negative feelings people had because they didn’t like the pictures the students were holding. Just because someone doesn’t like a picture doesn’t mean they have been harassed, which is what the UVSS is trying to claim.”

The poster that resulted in the second motion was developed by National Campus Life Network (NCLN), and compares the current denial of legal personhood to the pre-born in Canada with similar treatment of other groups in the past. The poster can be viewed here: http://www.ncln.ca/resources/print-resources/person-poster/

“I thought the UVSS had moved past this type of discrimination and censorship since the settlement of YPY’s lawsuit in July 2010,” said Anastasia Pearse, former YPY president. Pearse currently works as the Western Campus Coordinator for NCLN. “Censorship of the abortion debate at a university is shameful and unacceptable.”

“YPY will not tolerate this ideological discrimination,” said Côté. “We must all demand that our   society be free of discrimination and censorship of minority or unpopular viewpoints. If there is a right not to be offended than we cannot have freedom of speech in this country or on campus.The legal killing of so many innocent human beings is a disturbing topic, but it is far too serious to suppress or ignore.”

###

For further information:

Cameron Côté (YPY Vice President) – 778-678-4275, youthprotectingyouth@gmail.com

Alanna Gomez (CCBR Campus Outreach Director) – 403-690-5217, acampbell@unmaskingchoice.ca

Anastasia Pearse (NCLN Western Coordinator) – 604-365-3484, westerncanada@ncln.ca

Share Button

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: UVIC PRO-LIFE STUDENTS SETTLE OUT OF COURT

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

VICTORIA, BC – After two and a half months of consultation, the legal conflict between the University of Victoria’s pro-life club, Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), and the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) has come to a conclusion.

The legal conflict was the result of two years of discrimination and censorship, during which YPY was repeatedly denied funding that other clubs received. The situation escalated in the spring of 2010, when the UVSS refused to recognize YPY as a club, and made policy modifications that specifically targeted pro-life advocacy. YPY responded by filing a petition in the BC Supreme Court.

The case has now been settled out of court: the UVSS has recognized YPY as a club, granted it funding for the summer semester, repaid all funds wrongly withheld since fall 2008, and eliminated policy additions that had targeted pro-life advocacy. Having watched other pro-life groups face discrimination and censorship, YPY welcomes these developments that recognize the right to free speech at UVic.

“This is a great victory for YPY,” says club president Anastasia Pearse. “We interpret the UVSS’ concessions as an admission of wrongdoing, and we’re happy with the new direction it’s taking.”

The UVSS has also agreed to an unusual condition that allows YPY to hold the petition in abeyance indefinitely, making the process required to reinitiate legal proceedings quicker and easier, should it become necessary – a circumstance that YPY would view as regrettable. It is hoped that holding the UVSS immediately accountable will curb censorial behaviour.

Despite the free speech challenges it has faced recently, YPY remains focused on advocating for the right to life of all human beings at all stages of life, and will continue to boldly exercise its freedom of speech in proclaiming this message.

The club sincerely thanks Joseph Arvay of Arvay Finlay Barristers – who represented YPY – for his exceptional legal representation.

YPY is pleased that the BC Civil Liberties Association, which has generously acted in support of the club’s free speech, has been granted intervener status in the lawsuit, and will be intervening should the lawsuit need to be revived under the abeyance agreement.


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Youth Protecting Youth: YPY Continues Legal Consultation

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

As of this writing, Youth Protecting Youth and the University of Victoria Students’ Society’s engaging in legal conflict has failed to reach a final conclusion. The UVSS Board of Directors has voted to remove new anti-pro-life clauses from its policy (changes to its Harassment Policy had discriminated against pro-life advocacy) and grant status, funding and retroactive monies to YPY. Although these measures address some of the requests made in the petition to the BC Supreme Court, two key points remain unresolved: The UVSS hasn’t declared the action it has taken against YPY in the past to be unlawful, and the UVSS hasn’t promised that YPY’s behaving as it has so far will prevent it from being silenced again.

The UVSS must take steps - in a spirit of true reparation - to ensure that it will  act consistently and fairly in the future. At present, we fear that there are no guarantees that the students’ society won’t discriminate against pro-life students in semesters to come.

YPY remains in legal consultation at present, reasonably seeking to secure lasting protection from censorship and discrimination against its members and its message.


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Youth Protecting Youth: Press Release: Pro-Life Students take Legal Action against their Student Union

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

VICTORIA, B.C., May 3, 2010 ‑ Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), the University of Victoria pro‑life students’ club, today filed a petition in the BC Supreme Court initiating legal proceedings against the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS).

The lawsuit seeks various court orders all to the effect that the UVSS has acted unlawfully in denying YPY club funding since September 2008, and recently upped the ante by refusing to ratify YPY as an official club for the Spring 2010 semester. In addition, the Clubs Policy has now been amended to specifically target pro‑life advocacy.

University of Victoria student, UVSS member, and YPY president, Anastasia Pearse commented:

“We have watched pro‑life student groups throughout the province, and across the country, face the stifling and discriminatory decisions of Student Societies that deny them funding or club status.

Our aims are to promote choices that protect unborn human beings and their mothers from the harm of abortion.  We should be granted equal opportunity to share our message.”

The students involved with YPY are members of the University community, which is the very place where controversial topics should be discussed and various sides considered. They recognize that it is their duty to stand up to protect the core value of ideological diversity and the fundamental values at stake in this case including equality and freedom of expression.

The controversy that has sprung up in the media around Prime Minister Harper’s recent announcement that Canada will not fund abortions as part of its G8 child and maternal health‑care initiative for developing countries demonstrates that abortion is still a live issue for debate.  Pearse highlights, “To debate is to engage with opposing ideas and in order to fully engage, we must be free to express opposing views respectfully without censure.”

Joseph Arvay of the Vancouver based firm Arvay Finlay is acting for Youth Protecting Youth.


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Youth Protecting Youth: Freedom of Expression Update: New Policy of Censorship

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

Recent posts have addressed the dangers of euthanasia and informed about the struggles of pro-life students at other Universities. Here is an update on our struggle for freedom of expression.

Clubs at UVic receive a small sum of money each semester to support their activities. The University of Victoria Students’ Society has denied us this funding – that every other club receives – for the past two years on the grounds that putting up a few small, non-graphic posters that challenge the morality of abortion (first and second posters used) constitutes harassment of students. This semester, the UVSS revoked club status entirely, pending a modification of clubs policy, because we continued to put up the posters in addition to holding a very well-attended debate. We protested against such unfair treatment.

In the last week of this semester, we were offered club status. However, the catch is we will eventually have to sign policy that would prevent us from voicing some central pro-life beliefs. This is an act of outright censorship initiated by our ideological opponents. Note Part F – Harassment of the new Clubs Policy: Amended Apr 2010.

We will do everything we can to stop this. We can’t be silenced when so many women are suffering, and so many children are dying.


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.