TORONTO, March 3, 2008 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today commented on how a scheduled debate was cancelled at York University Feb. 28 just hours before it was to take place because the school’s student union insisted that abortion is not debatable.
There have been numerous incidents on Canadian campuses making it clear that the Canadian Federation of Students does not encourage equal time for both sides of this contentious issue when it comes to the granting of club sttus to pro-life clubs. The attempt to stifle debate on life issues should be of concern to everyone who respects freedom of speech.
Margaret Fung, President of Students for Bioethical Awareness (SBA) at York,
one of the hosting clubs, described what happened in a press release: “I was told in a
meeting by members of the York Federation of Students that debating abortion is comparable to debating whether a man should be allowed to beat his wife. They said that there is freedom of speech to a limit, and that abortion is not an issue to debate. They demanded that the event not take place and shut us down.”
SBA, an official York University Student Club, worked with the York Debating Society to organize the debate. The debaters were Michael Payton from Freethinkers, Skeptics and Atheists at York for the pro-choice side and Jose Ruba from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Awareness for the pro-life side. It was to be an organized debate moderated by the York Debating Society.
The actions of the York Federation of Students deserve a failing grade. Their actions, and the like-minded resolutions from the Canadian Federation of Students, disclose a closed mind on matters of ethics, and a narrow-minded approach to matters of legitimate debate. Graduates from these schools should have reason to complain that student political debate has fallen to unacceptable levels. Prospective students and their parents have good reason to question the academic integrity of such institutions that condone such limited thinking.
Will these students disallow debate, whether academic or political, over the reality of post abortion trauma, over the societal costs of 3 million abortions over the past 40 years, or in respect of the relationship between conscience and political action? It would be helpful to know to what extent such censorship extends for future reference.
A comparison of the abortion debate to spousal abuse is particularly troubling. From this perspective, abortion of any child is unworthy of debate, including abortions based merely on sex selection or potential disability. But try as they might, the reality of abortion, and in particular the consequences of abortions to Canadian society, will remain the subject of future debate, regardless of whether York students would have it excluded. For example, most newspapers have recently carried a full range of diverse yet sincere and deeply-held beliefs in the form of commentaries that were published to mark the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s “Morgentaler decision.”
The League again urges university administrations to do as much as they can to foster an environment of free speech on their campuses. The one-sided policies of numerous student unions should be all the proof they need that something has gone very wrong with the ability of some students to understand the roles of genuine academic inquiry or debate in a democracy.
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org