Canada’s York University Expected to Reschedule Abortion Debate After Censorship

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 10, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canada’s York University Reschedules Abortion Debate After Student Censorship Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 10
, 2008

Toronto, Canada ( — York University has rescheduled a debate over abortion after student government leaders engaged in alleged censorship by canceling the first forum. The second attempt at holding the debate appears to have been made possible by the college’s administration.

York student government leaders canceled the abortion debate just hours before its scheduled start earlier this month.

Margaret Fung, president of the Students for Bioethical Awareness, one of the organizations hosting the debate, told the student government officers displayed an obvious pro-abortion bent in their decision.

However, York University Vice President of Student Affairs Robert Tiffin wrote a letter to the National Post newspaper and rebuked the student government for its decision.

He appears to have set the debate for later this week.

The York University student government responded and claimed pro-life advocates are contributing to an atmosphere or fear and violence that has resulted in several reported cases of sexual assault against students there.

The student government indicated pro-life groups “will not be permitted to use student’s resources to further their campaign of intimidation and harassment.”

Stephanie Gray, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, the group slated to represent the pro-life side in the debate, responded to the charges in an interview with The Varsity.

“In no way do we harass people. We have a policy of nonviolence, we have a policy of not raising our voices, we have a policy of being respectful to those that we are interacting with,” she said.

Fung originally told what the student leaders said about the abortion debate and said they made comparisons to beating women.

"I was told in a meeting by members of the York Federation of Students that debating abortion is comparable to debating whether a man should be allowed to beat his wife," Fung told

"They said that there is freedom of speech to a limit, and that abortion is not an issue to debate. They demanded that the event not take place and shut us down," she added.

Fung’s group, an official York University Student Club, worked with the York Debating Society to organize the forum.

Michael Payton from Freethinkers, Skeptics and Atheists at York was scheduled to represent the pro-abortion side while Jose Ruba from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Awareness planned to speak on behalf of pro-life advocates.

Both sides were ready and willing to debate, but after student government leaders shut the event down, dozens of people were turned away who planned to watch the discussion.

"The Student Centre has made sure that anyone with different views than theirs can’t express themselves, even if both points of view are represented," Fung continued.

"They don’t seem to understand that we live in a free, democratic society. A university is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas not a propaganda machine for political extremists," she concluded.

The stopping of the abortion debate at York University comes on the heels of statements by the Canadian Federation of Students comparing pro-life student groups to the KKK, and announcing their intention to support student unions who ban pro-life student clubs.

In October, the campus pro-life group at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada failed a second time to persuade the pro-abortion student government to allow it to be an official campus group.

Students at Capilano College in August were denied official status from the university and took their case to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

The official recognition by the college is an important distinction. Without it, a campus group can’t post fliers, advertise and hold meetings.

Last year, the student union at the University of British Columbia‘s Kelowna campus refused club status to campus pro-lifers.

And in Ottawa, the Carleton University Students’ Association passed a motion affirming their pro-abortion position and denying official status to a student pro-life group.

ACTION: Contact York University VP Robert Tiffin and thank him for allowing the debate to go on. You can find contact information at