CALGARY, Alberta, April 8, 2014 – The Catholic Civil Rights League is pleased to note that an Alberta court has ruled that University of Calgary officials violated the rights of pro-life students when they found members of Campus Pro-Life guilty in 2010 of “non-academic misconduct” for refusing to turn the signs of a Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) display inwards so no one could see them.
“The League has always taken that view that student pro-life activism, including the GAP display, is a legitimate exercise of freedom of speech,” says League Executive Director Joanne McGarry. “We have provided assistance to a number of the student groups who have faced on-campus censorship.”
The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench stated it was “unreasonable” for the Board of Governors of the University of Calgary to refuse to hear and fully consider the appeal of the seven students found guilty of non-academic misconduct for having set up the pro-life display on campus.
Since 2006, members of Campus Pro-Life have set up the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) twice a year on the university campus. In 2006 and 2007, the University of Calgary posted its own signs near the display, stating that this expression was protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
However, in March of 2008, the university began demanding that the students set up their display with the signs facing inwards, to hide the signs entirely from the view of people passing by. The students continued to set up their display with signs facing outwards, as they had been allowed to do in previous years.
In November of 2008, the university tried unsuccessfully to have the pro-life students arrested by Calgary police and charged with trespassing on their own campus. In 2010, the university charged the pro-life students with non-academic misconduct for having continued to set up their display with signs facing outwards, and found them guilty.
The students appealed the decision to university administration, but in January of 2011, the Board of Governors upheld the verdict of guilty by refusing to convene the Student Discipline Appeal Committee to hear and fully consider the students’ appeal.
“The Court has ordered the University’s Board of Governors to hear the students’ appeal and give it proper consideration. We are happy with this outcome,” said lawyer John Carpay, who acted on behalf of the pro-life students and serves as president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, in a press release.
“However,” he added, “the legal issues are not yet fully settled.”
Give students a hearing or drop charges, says League. League press releases, Sept. 14, 2010
– With a report from LifeSite News, April 7, 2014