TORONTO, ON. Oct. 8, 2009 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today called on university administrations and student unions to support free speech on their campuses by encouraging the fair presentation of both sides of controversial moral and religious questions.
According to reports in LifeSite News and the McGill Tribune, a controversial pro-life presentation hosted by Choose Life, McGill University’s pro-life club, was chanted down by protesters Oct. 6. Police were called to the scene and, after repeated requests for civility, two persons were arrested.
The talk, entitled ‘Echoes of the Holocaust’ was given by Jose Ruba of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR). The talk draws a parallel between past atrocities, including the Holocaust, and abortion.
The incident echoes a similar conflict at St. Mary’s University, Halifax, last year, and the denial or threat of denial of club status to pro-life organizations at a number of universities, including Carleton, Lakehead and University of Victoria. In 2007, a debate involving CCBR was shut down at York University but later rescheduled with the support of administration, and some help from the League to help the pro-life group meet expenses. These events relate to a motion by the Canadian Students’ Federation encouraging member student unions to only allow any share of student dues, or use of school facilities, to groups supportive of the “pro-choice” philosophy.
In at least one case, this type of censorship is supported by school administration. A group at University of Calgary has a court date later this month for going ahead with a poster exhibit despite warnings from the university to turn the posters inward or be charged with trespassing.
Prior to this week’s Montreal event, the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) passed a motion by a vote of 25-2-2 to censure the event and ask that the university administration intervene to cancel it. The society, further, resolved that if Choose Life chose to continue with the event, the group would be ineligible for funding for the remainder of its existence.
Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson stated that he would not cancel the event, however, asserting the group’s right to debate the issue.
Within the pro-life movement itself, support for the use of graphic posters and comparisons to the Holocaust is far from unanimous. But while respecting all the differing viewpoints about tactics and analogies, the League believes it is important that student groups receive their fair share of mandatory dues to present their viewpoint as they see fit, provided it is peaceful. Otherwise, the universities are effectively giving preferential treatment to one side of the religious and moral questions surrounding abortion.
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