Previously, we have discussed the arrest of peaceful protesters at Carleton University. Since that time, the student union at Carleton has notified Carleton Lifeline that they will be decertified as a campus club if they do not change their constitution to reflect a pro-choice position, which is of course an absurdity since Carleton Lifeline members believe in the “equal rights of the unborn and firmly believes that abortion is a moral and legal wrong,”
Given IFPS-Canada’s position on Freedom of speech, we feel it is important to support the Carleton students to ensure that they are not silenced by a group of self-appointed censors who believe that there is no room for dissent on the issue of abortion. Regardless of where you stand on abortion, this has become an issue of freedom of speech and if you are interested in expressing your support for these students to hold an opposing point of view, you can sign the petition at the following link:
p.s. For anyone that would like to make the argument that the potentially offensive nature of the GAP methodology could justify CUSA's position to censor Carleton Lifeline, allow us to preemptively answer such an argument. Raising objections to the GAP methodology is simply a distraction from the freedom of speech violation that has occurred and is an entirely separate issue which may be worthy of a debate on its own.
If we are to take CUSA at their word (difficult as that may be given our experience with the student union President at U of Ottawa, Seamus Wolfe, who demonstrated an alarming propensity for finding new and innovative ways to frame their opposition to freedom of speech at every turn) the issue is that "because of CUSA's commitment to choice, Carleton Lifeline can no longer promote activities on campus or even lobby in any way that would go against a pro-choice position". CUSA's words demonstrate clearly that their position on the issue would have Carleton Lifeline excluded from carrying on their club activities regardless of what method they choose to employ in spreading their pro-life position.
IFPS-Canada also sent the letter below to the President of Carleton University and we invite others so inclined to express their feelings to Dr. Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President and Vice-Chancellor of Carleton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Ms O'Reilly Runte:
We are writing to express our outrage at the actions of the Carleton Student Union in decertifying the Carleton Lifeline campus club.
As the Vice-President of the Canadian Chapter of the International Free Press Society, a group dedicated to preserving our most sacrosanct right to freedom of speech, we find the actions of the student union at Carleton chilling.
As the group who brought Ann Coulter to the University of Ottawa only to have a mob of rowdy individuals shut the event down through intimidating actions and threats of violence, we cannot help but be painfully aware of this anti-liberty trend appearing on University campuses across Canada. During the debate that was unleashed after Ms Coulter's visit, the Canadian public and many alumni of the U of Ottawa made it quite clear that regardless of personal opinion, the vast majority of Canadians do not favour the abridgment of their free speech rights and will look suspiciously on the actions of a university administration that would not stand up for the rights of students who wish to peacefully listen to, and express opinions that may or may not be outside of the mainstream.
It has been noted many times, and we're quite sure you would agree, that a university campus is exactly the place where the young should be encouraged to discuss, debate and defend all points of view in a peaceful, and civilized manner. It is loathsome to think that student unions, whose representatives are elected by a tiny fraction of the student body, can be given the kind of power that will decide which opinions and which groups will be allowed to have a presence on campus.
Further, it is not good enough to say that the student union is only following the schools "Discrimination on campus" policy to justify this action. While a woman may have a "right to choose" in Canada on the issue of abortion, it is quite another matter to suggest that Canadians should not be able to express their opinions about the issue of abortion simply because the student union has accepted the existence of this questionable right. The fact is, we do not have any laws restricting abortion in Canada by virtue of the fact that a rigorous debate on the issue has thus far been avoided and legislators have failed to act. As such, the question is clearly still very much open to debate and it is hoped that those who feel strongly about the issue either way, should be encouraged to discuss the issue without fear or apprehension so that Canada can one day move from having the dubious distinction of being one of only a handful of nations that remains without an abortion law on the books.
On the broader issue of freedom of speech, may we remind you that the Weimar Republic had some of the most restrictive limitations on speech. Hitler benefited greatly from those restrictive laws which suppressed speech and limited public discourse on important issues of the day. He noted that it was thanks to those limitations on speech and lack of recognition of the importance of criticism during the reign of the Weimar Republic, that his party (the Nazis) had managed to grow and thrive.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but it seems that the administration at Carleton has a decision to make about what side of history they wish to stand on and in so doing, setting the example for our precious youth on campuses across the country; will Carleton stand with self-appointed censors who are willing to curtail the rights of others who hold opinions that contradict with their own or will they defend the precious rights of students who wish to lawfully and peacefully express dissent?
Democracy can be messy and it is hoped that part of a quality education includes providing an environment where our future leaders can be exposed to opportunities to experience disagreement and learn to express that disagreement in a healthy and productive manner.
Best regards, Mary Lou Ambrogio, Vice President, International Free Press Society-Canada