VICTORIA, B.C., Oct. 22, 2009 – In letters to the Minister of Higher Education, the President and Chancellor of the University of Victoria, and the UVic Student Society (UVSS), the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has protested the discriminatory treatment of the campus pro-life club, Youth Protecting Youth (YPY). The Association also expresses grave concern about freedom of expression at the University of Victoria.
The difficulties faced by the pro-life club since the fall of 2008 are exemplified by a comment by UVSS Director, Sinead Charbonneau. “I don’t believe in giving equal rights to everyone because I wasn’t born equal.” (UVSS Minutes, 23 March, 2009)
Ms. Charbonneau represented the University of Victoria Women’s Centre. She was one of five UVSS Directors who, in March, 2009, tried to prevent the approval of a campus pro-life club. Despite the efforts of Ms. Charbonneau and like-minded directors, the UVSS board approved club status for Youth Protecting Youth (YPY). However, repeating a move made the previous semester, the Board denied YPY the funding it granted to other campus clubs because YPY would not accept the UVSS party line that abortion is morally acceptable.
On 5 October, 2009 the UVSS Board again denied funding to YPY, apparently because the club had arranged for a debate on campus about abortion.
In view of the UVSS Board’s continuing harassment and discriminatory treatment of Youth Protecting Youth, the Catholic Civil Rights League welcomes news that the BC Civil Liberties Association has come to YPY’s assistance.
Joanne McGarry, the League’s executive director, hopes that the BCCLA action will begin to reverse a trend that has seen across the country. A number of campus pro-life groups have been refused status or funding. Some have been attacked and harassed by militant students, occasionally while university authorities looked on.
“These attacks on freedom of expression are consistent with what we have seen in some of the human rights cases involving freedom of expression of religious belief,” said Ms. McGarry. “We hope to see this trend reversed.”
With respect to the concerns of YPY, Ms. McGarry is optimistic that they will be fully investigated, as required by University policy.
“The University’s own policies prohibit discrimination on the basis of political beliefs,” she observed. “The University’s Equity Office has investigated UVSS in the past, so I see no reason why it would not do so in this case. I just hope that the investigation does not drag out over several months.”
The debate that provided the excuse for the latest denial of funds was held last night between Stephanie Gray of the Centre for Bioethical Reform and Professor Eike Kluge of the University of Victoria. It attracted 400 students – twice the capacity of the venue. Two shorter debates had to be held to accommodate the interested students.
CCRL backgrounder about this case.
More on student pro-life clubs
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