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U of A sued by pro-life student group: says the university violated the Code of Student Conduct Behaviour

The UAlberta Pro-Life student group and its administrators are suing the University of Alberta for allegedly failing to uphold free speech on campus in the last year.

The suit details ways in which UAlberta Pro-Life says it was slighted by U of A administration in the 2014–15 school year, claiming the U of A has condoned violation of the Code of Student Behaviour by not punishing those who had allegedly disobeyed it. The U of A hasn’t given the group a straightforward response to the group’s complaints, UAlberta Pro-Life President Amberlee Nicol said, so it is now going forward with the suit.

“They couldn’t commit to upholding our free speech on campus this upcoming year,” Nicol said. “We’re taking action so that we can make sure our rights are upheld.”

UAlberta Pro-Life has also been invoiced by the U of A for security fees. One of their classroom events had potential of being disrupted. Having to pay for the actions of others is unfair, Nicol said.

“We want to have the freedom to express our views, the same as any other group,” Nicol said. “Unfortunately the university has failed to protect our expression rights.”

A “sworn statement” by Nicol states that last school year, UAlberta Pro-Life posters were torn down whenever they attempted to advertise their events. A student had been found guilty for vandalizing these posters, but was not required to repay the group for damages. In March 2015, UAlberta Pro-Life displayed graphic abortion images in Quad as part of an anti-abortion campaign. The entire time, it was obscured by counter-protesters. According to UAlberta Pro-Life, U of A regulations prohibit the obstruction of university-related functions.

The U of A declined to directly comment on the suit, “as the matter is now before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

“The university believes that its response to the event in March 2015 was appropriate, balanced and based on established policies and procedures,” a statement issued by the U of A to The Gateway read.

The group that protested the anti-abortion display violated the Student Code of Conduct Alberta Pro-Life states: “No Student shall disseminate or cause to be disseminated malicious or defamatory material or engage in activity which creates a social or academic climate that hinders or prevents the full participation of another person or group in the life of the University.”

Nicole said the purpose of the university is to generate dialogue and to engage with difficult issues, which cannot be achieved if one group is able to silence another. She added that it’s the university’s job to protect the rights of all students and to discourage mob-mentality.

“Hopefully (the suit) will generate helpful dialogue about the issue of free speech on campus,” Nicol said.
“We just want our expression rights upheld,” she said.

11 Comments

  1. More important than the sad state of free speech on campuses (most of which got a failing grade in a recent free speech report)? Free speech is pretty important, wouldn’t you say?

  2. Many people do find LGBTQ things to be offensive. And goodness knows they’re forced on you (campus Pride Week anyone?). Free speech is free speech, and given that abortion is itself a very graphic issue, to prohibit them from showing any kind of graphic content is actually hindering free speech.

  3. Isn’t that a bit of a strange standard, given that the issue itself involves graphic surgical processes?

  4. The merits of slavery. The benefits of eugenics. Pro-Life arguments. History. Dust bin. you lost. you get nothing. join the 20th century already (yes, that WAS intentional.)

  5. Those two groups are at completely different ends of the spectrum in regards to their advocacy efforts. Most LGBTQ events on campus are aimed at promoting safe spaces, where people feel comfortable and free from discrimination. As far as I’m concerned, Pro-Life events are centred around shaming people based on their personal decisions.
    Regardless, I don’t recall any LGBTQ events on campus showing graphic images without consent? Unless you consider rainbows to be offensive…

  6. I agree. A healthy student environment should NOT include being shown graphic and inaccurate images without consent.

  7. Anti-abortion groups can show their disgusting photos on campus if they want to, but it shouldn’t be forced upon students. In the future, if they want to host pro-life events, it should be in a tented area or a room, where people have the option of seeing their graphic images.

  8. All those legal fees could probably pay for someone to raise their child or feed a hungry person. Good job Go Life… Don’t we have better and more important things to squabble over?

  9. If the UAlberta Pro-Life group’s tactics didn’t resemble those of the Westboro Baptist Church, I’m sure counter-protesters wouldn’t be so aggressive.

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