TORONTO, January 18, 2008 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today criticized the denial of official club status to a pro-life club at Lakehead University and expressed concern about the growth of such incidents in Canada’s universities over the past few years. There have been similar denials of club status by official student governing bodies at Carleton University, Ottawa, UBC- Okanagan and Memorial University in Newfoundland. (Only Carleton later reversed its original decision.)
In a press release, the National Campus Life Network reported that the Lakehead University Student Union (LUSU) has “severely restricted the free speech rights of its own members and blatantly violated its own union policies.” At a meeting on January 10th, 2008, the Lakehead University Student Union (LUSU) board of directors voted 20-3 to deny official club status to Lakehead University Life Support, a pro-life club. A conditional status had been granted earlier, but significantly limited the amount of contact the club could have with other students.
Within a few days of that decision, the League learned that pro-life advertising has been taken down from transit shelters in Hamilton, Ontario, after a small number of complaints, even though the ads had been approved by the company handling transit advertising before placement.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the “Morgentaler Decision” in the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled that Canada’s abortion law was unconstitutional. The decision led to the complete absence of any legal restriction on abortions in Canada. While the corresponding increase in abortions was probably predictable, the impact on free speech has been almost as dramatic. Debates leading up to the liberalization of abortion laws were usually marked by the vigorous expression of both pro-life and “pro-choice” viewpoints, especially in the media and on university campuses. Disagreement was commonplace, but the silencing of a viewpoint was not.
These same few decades have also seen rapid advancement in knowledge of pre-natal life, and some reduction in the gestational age at which a premature infant can survive. In fact, some pro-life people believe abortion debate is stifled because those supporting wide-open access to the procedure suspect they would lose, at least on the basis of scientific fact.
We cannot know whether this is the case or not until universities and public opinion forums are open to the equal expression of all viewpoints. The League commends those institutions that foster such an open environment, and encourages others to adopt policies reflecting genuine freedom of speech.
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