by Steven Ertelt
December 6, 2006
Ottawa, Canada (LifeNews.com) — The students association at Carleton University in Canada has approved a measure that would prohibit the campus pro-life group from using any student space for its activities. After a contentious four hour debate, the student government voted 26 to 6 in favor of denying the group its free speech rights.
The motion the Carleton University Students’ Association approved says "campaigns, distributions, solicitations, lobbying efforts, displays, events, etc. that seek to limit or remove a woman’s options in the event of pregnancy will not be supported."
That could effectively curtail the activities the campus pro-life group undertakes.
Sarah Fletcher, president of Carleton Lifeline, responded to the decision with concern about the future of her organization and its free speech rights.
"I’m not sure what’s going to happen to our club," she told the Ottawa Citizen newspaper. "It means we no longer have the right to express our views in student space."
"There are students at Carleton who do have a pro-life point of view, and those students need to be represented," she said previously. "We feel it’s an infringement on our basic rights."
The decision could open up the Canadian college to a lawsuit.
Don Hutchison, legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, told the newspaper that the decision violates provincial and federal laws.
But student association vice-president Shelley Melanson, challenged Hutchison and pro-life advocates to sue the college saying, "Bring it on if you have a lawsuit."
Members of the student government council defended their decision saying the college should allow groups that oppose abortion to speak on campus because it violates Canada law allowing abortions.
Katy McIntyre, vice-president of services for the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA), proposed the motion, which would amend the student society’s discrimination policy.
It came in response to complaints from the pro-abortion group on campus about a debate the campus pro-life group Lifeline organized concerning the legality of abortion. McIntyre says pro-abortion women came to her complaining they felt "harassed" by the debate.
Meanwhile, the forensics group on campus is puzzled by the proposal, saying that abortion and other hotly contested political issues should be able to be debated in a college that should support freedom of speech.
"You’re preventing groups from organizing and assembling and effectively lobbying their particular view, which does limit their freedom of speech," Adam Coombs, the head of the forensics group, told the CBC.
Backers of the measure said students can debate on campus but shouldn’t be able to use money from the student government to facilitate it.
Former student David MacDonald told the CBC that students considering abortions need to have another perspective and talked about the decision and he his girlfriend made to have an abortion.
"It was the worst mistake I ever made and she would say the same thing," he said. "And there was no voice on campus to represent that."
Carleton University issued a news release after the meeting stating that the university "has always been committed to the free expression of ideas in an open and respectful way." It said groups not recognized by the student government would still be able to use space on campus not under the council’s control.
Some alumni have already said they will stop giving to the college as a result of the decision.
ACTION: Contact Carleton University and express your views on this proposal. Write to Carleton University 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6 Canada or call (613) 520-7400. Send a fax to 613 520-4474 or contact CU President Dr. Samy A. Mahmoud at [email protected].