Campus Pro-Life Groups concerned About Their Freedom of Speech
Protesters chanted and yelled to keep Stephen Woodworth, MP for Kitchener Centre, from being heard at a March 13th event organized by Waterloo Students for Life.
The National Campus Life Network (NCLN), an organization supporting pro-life students, reported on the incident at the campus in Waterloo, Ontario, in the March 14th press release “Protesters disrupt presentation by MP Stephen Woodworth at the University of Waterloo.”
In 2012, Mr. Woodworth brought forward Motion 312 to have Parliament study the Criminal Code definition of a human being. Protesters prevented Mr. Woodworth from continuing with his presentation on this topic and a Q & A session. Campus security guards, when asked to intervene, stated they could do so only if the protesters became violent.
Hannah Bailey, President of Waterloo Students for Life, granted that people had strong opinions about abortion but felt the protesters’ behaviour was embarrassing to the university community.
The March 14th NCLN press release “Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms asks University of Waterloo to safeguard free speech on Campus” reported that JCCF President John Carpay sent a letter to Dr. Feridun Hamdullahpur, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University, questioning campus security guards’ refusal to intervene so the event could continue. The letter asked the University to apologize to Mr. Woodworth for the incident and demonstrate its commitment to free speech on campus by scheduling another opportunity for him to speak, with proper security in place to ensure no disruption by protesters.
“The deplorable hollowness of our campus ‘progressives,’” an opinion piece by broadcaster and writer Rex Murphy published on the National Post website, described the protesters’ behaviour as “anti-intellectual, anti-dialogue, anti-exchange and debate.”
In response to a statement by Ellen Rethore, Associate Vice-President of Communications and Public Affairs at the University, that “police were at the event Wednesday to guard the safety of everyone, not enforce rules of academic debate,” Mr. Murphy argued that “‘Rules of academic debate’ reach to the absolutely central idea of a university, and should be protected before all else.”
“UFV club protests decision on pro-life presentation,” Vikki Hopes’ April 8th Abbotsford News article, also concerned the free speech of a campus pro-life group.
The article reported that the Life Link club at University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) in Abbotsford, British Columbia, was protesting the cancellation of its April 10th pro-life presentation featuring a speech by Mike Schouten, Campaign Director of weneedaLAW.ca, about the legal status of abortion in Canada.
Leslie Courchesne, UFV’s Director, Marketing and Communications, said Life Link advised UFV one week in advance that the presentation involved an outside speaker and advertising and the administration, notified about a protest of the speech, “did not have enough time to do a fulsome risk assessment to ensure the safety and security of our campus community and external visitors.” Ms. Courchesne added that UFV was working with Life Link to hold the event on campus at a later date or off campus on the original date.
Life Link was also protesting the fact that UFV had restricted the distribution of materials on sex-selective abortions to a closed room. NCLN developed the “‘It’s a girl’ should not be a death sentence” resources, and Anastasia Pearse, NCLN’s Western Campus Coordinator, said no other Canadian campus had restricted distribution to a closed room.
Ms. Courchesne stated that UFV did not oppose the display and distribution of the “It’s a girl” items on campus but that Life Link did not respond to its question about what other materials might be displayed. She noted the club was advised that, for materials of a “graphic nature that could be upsetting or offensive” to some people, other arrangements are made for display in a marked classroom space.
A letter to UFV from JCCF lawyer Mr. Carpay on behalf of Life Link asked the university to reverse these decisions and stated that a failure to do so would result in Life Link’s taking legal action against UFV.
According to the April 8th NCLN press release “University of the Fraser Valley shuts down event and censors anti-gendercide resources,” Life Link President Ashley Bulthuis said that the club had distributed resources, held a debate, organized other presentations on abortion, and even screened a documentary on gendercide at UFV this year. Ms. Bulthuis questioned why UFV had “suddenly disregarded its commitment to free speech in regards to the gendercide and abortion issues.”
Quoting a recent study that found “87% of Canadians oppose sex-selective abortion and 25% say it is occurring in their own communities,” Ms. Pearse asked, “Why won’t the university allow students to raise awareness about this horrific practice?”
Peter Baklinski, in the April 11th LifeSiteNews.com article “Life Link holds private meeting after University of Fraser Valley shuts down pro-life event,” reported that UFV did not allow the pro-life event to take place on campus but provided Life Link with a room in the student services building for a private meeting.
Mr. Schouten of weneedaLAW.ca said he had seen a significant number of security guards on patrol but no signs of a protest before he spoke at the by-invitation-only meeting. He talked about gendercide and late-term abortion in Canada and the need for legal protection for unborn children. Mr. Schouten encouraged those in attendance not to give up when faced with opposition to the pro-life message.
Ms. Bulthuis said that Life Link would not pursue legal action if UFV allowed the event rescheduled for the fall semester to proceed.