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uOttawa Students For Life: Struggle for Free Speech

This post was written for uOttawa Students For Life by uOttawa Students For Life. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

[Note: Today's post comes courtesy of our first guest-blogger, Anastasia Pierce, from University of Victoria's pro-life club, Youth Protecting Youth. We encourage you to visit their site.]

by Anastasia Pierce

As university students we are in the very environment that should encourage freedom of expression as students search for truth and knowledge. To quote one free speech advocate, “In order to get the truth, conflicting arguments and expression must be allowed. There can be no freedom without choice, no choice without knowledge.” We should be respectful of other’s ideas, and free to debate them. Unfortunately these concepts were recently overlooked at the University of Victoria (UVic).

Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), UVic’s pro-life club, has experienced two years of discrimination and censorship because some students felt offended by our message. During this time we were repeatedly denied club funding. This past spring the situation escalated to a point where we were denied club status and policy modifications were made that specifically targeted pro-life advocacy.

The controversy was triggered in spring 2008 when we posted some posters from an organization called Feminists for Life. We continued to distribute the posters, and have been denied funding ever since for having displayed them.

Because of the controversy we decided to host a debate where both sides could present their views on the abortion issue. In fall 2009 Stephanie Gray from the Canadian Centre of Bioethical Reform debated UVic’s philosophy professor, Dr. Eike Kluge. However, this debate stimulated further controversy, leading to a denial of club funding that fall and withdrawal of club status in Spring 2010. Despite multiple appeals to our student society, no changes were made. Therefore, this past May YPY filed a lawsuit against the UVic Student Society.

We are happy to say that after  two months of legal consultation, the case was recently settled out of court. The UVic Student’s Society now recognizes YPY as a club, has granted us funding for the summer semester, has repaid all funds wrongly withheld since fall 2008, and has eliminated the discriminatory policy. They have 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.

This resolution is a great step forward for pro-life students. We are pleased that UVic once again recognizes the importance of free speech, and respects the varying ideologies that should be welcomed on a university campus. We hope this will set an example for other universities as they encourage dialogue amongst students in the pursuit of truth and knowledge.

YPY will continue to encourage respectful discussion on the abortion issue, and boldly proclaim our message. Inevitably there will be further challenges, but it will not stop us from proclaiming the truth.

In the words of Winston Churchill, “The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.”

The truth we must share on our university campuses is that 300 innocent human beings die every day in our country from abortion, and many women and men are hurt by it. This unfortunate truth will not change unless we speak up and educate students about the reality of abortion, and support pregnant women with other life-affirming options.

No matter how much people dislike our message, and penalize us for sharing it, we must continue to proclaim the truth as we share our message with students and protect the most innocent and vulnerable in our society:  unborn children.


Read the comments at the uOttawa Students For Life website.

Youth Protecting Youth: YPY 2010/2011 Executive

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

August 4, 2010

The 2010/2011 YPY Executive has been elected, and is looking forward to working together this year to defend the dignity of all human life. Additions have been made to the executive, and the roles and responsibilities are as follows:

                    
 
PRESIDENT               
-direct club,
-chair meetings,
-liaise with UVSS,
-correspond with club members,
-communicate with media and other external relations.
 
VP – ACTIVITIES         
-organize on-campus club activities.
 
VP – APOLOGETICS     
-organize continued apologetics training.

SECRETARY/TREASURER              
-record meeting minutes, 
-assist in financial responsibilities,
-help organize club files.

RECRUITMENT/OUTREACH COORDINATOR
-coordinate outreach visits to the community,
-contact new club members.

INFORMATION OFFICER   
-maintain YPY’s online presence,
 -moderate blog,
-publish relevant YPY and pro-life material and events.
 
 
 
If you wish to get in contact with Youth Protecting Youth, please email us at youthprotectingyouth@gmail.com. If you would like to contact an individual executive member, please email the above address with the title of the executive member in the subject line (ex: ATTN: VP Apologetics).

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: Celebrating and Defending Life

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

“We are here to celebrate life.” These words were spoken by Pope John Paul II in one of his visits to Canada, and were repeated by Bishop Monroe from the Diocese of Kamloops at this year’s March for Life. Over 2000 participants walked through the streets of Victoria to the legislative buildings, bearing witness to their love and respect for life from conception until natural death. Our celebration of the beauty of life is tainted by forty years of unlimited access to abortion in Canada, but we are not without hope that we can make a change.

The march united people of all ages, representing a variety of religious beliefs from Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and other communities. It was encouraging to see so many enthusiastic youth lead the way to the legislative buildings, carrying the pro-life banners, and cheering loudly whenever they received positive comments from bystanders. As Rev. Rob Fitterer from Emmanuel Baptist Church noted in his address to the marchers, the younger generation has noticed the devastating effects of abortion and the lifestyles that lead to it and is embracing an authentic vision of life. Nowhere is this more evident than on university campuses, where Youth Protecting Youth and other pro-life clubs across Canada are bearing witness to the truth despite facing censorship. Minerva Macapagal from Capilano College reminded those gathered that although pro-life advocacy on university and college campuses may make us unpopular, it is essential; we who understand the reality of abortion have a responsibility to tell the truth.

Rachel Daniels told the truth as she described an authentic feminism to march participants: “True feminism bears witness to life. True feminism chooses life.” We must be compassionate towards women who are contemplating abortion or who have had one, and reach out to them so they too can understand their dignity as women.

“Give up, you lost.” As Rev. Rob Fitterer pointed out, these words have been thrown in the faces of many pro-life advocates in the past four decades. Since Canada abolished its laws on abortion, over three million unborn babies have died, and countless women and men have been hurt; this is abortion’s legacy. But pro-life advocates are not going to sit back and watch as the children of our nation are killed.

Drawing a confident comparison to VE day, Jose Ruba of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform spoke of a new day – a day coming soon – when we will celebrate victory over abortion. Jeff Charleson expressed a beautiful foreshadowing of the joy we will feel when this day comes, as he sang his uncle’s traditional First Nations song for the marchers. Each of us needs to work in our own way to save the unborn, and someday soon we will celebrate VA day.

Anastasia Pearse, Eric Kyfiuk, & Catherine Shenton, of Youth Protecting Youth






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.