CALGARY, AB Nov. 3, 2009 – The Catholic Civil Rights League is pleased to learn that the Alberta Crown Prosecutors’ Office has decided to stay the trespassing charges against several University of Calgary Campus Pro-Life members. The university had pressed the charges after the students went ahead with a display featuring graphic posters and controversial analogies after being asked to make changes to the exhibit but refusing to do so (League press releases, Feb. 3, 2009).
According to the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), which represented the students, a trial had been scheduled for tomorrow in Alberta Provincial Court, but the Crown Prosecutors’ Office has decided to stay the charges.
“The Crown’s decision is good news for free speech,” stated John Carpay, executive director of the CCF. “The CCF takes no position on abortion, but we defend free speech for all Canadians, especially on the campus of a taxpayer-funded university.”
The charges stem from the club’s Genocide Awareness Project in November, 2008, which featured posters of aborted fetuses and compared abortion to the Holocaust, Ku Klux Klan crimes and the genocide in Rwanda. Although the exhibit had been shown at the university in the past, prior to the November exhibit the school asked the organizers to turn the posters inward, citing safety concerns. The club did not comply and the protest went ahead as planned, even though they had been warned of possible sanctions including fines, suspension or even expulsion.
“We’re pleased that the principle of free speech has prevailed in this instance, and we hope to see students at other pro-life clubs across Canada able to present their viewpoint on an equal footing with those who don’t share it,” said CCRL League Executive Director Joanne McGarry. “Not everyone is in favour of the kind of imagery used in the exhibit, and that includes people who are pro-life. However, universities are publicly-funded institutions and should not be in effect discriminating against one side of a controversial question.”
A number of student pro-life clubs, including those at York and Carleton in Ontario, Memorial in Newfoundland, and University of Victoria in BC to name only a few, have had problems gaining or retaining accreditation in recent years. Those problems relate to a “pro-choice” resolution passed by the Canadian Federation of Students, and how individual student councils choose to apply it.
The charges against Campus Pro-Life, however, are the only case of which the League is aware that saw school administration taking the step of charging students with trespassing in relation to any pro-life project.
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