Carleton University’s student association has upheld a decision it rendered last year about whether to kick out a pro-life group that won’t acquiesce to its demands that it rework its charter to support abortion.
Carleton Lifeline lost its club status in November because of the student association’s policy against discrimination, which mandates that student clubs respect the so-called right to abortion. Without officially recognized status, the pro-life club won’t receive funding or access to space.
The student association decided in December rejected a policy change to allow pro-life student groups and, according to the Winnipeg Free Press, Ruth Lobo, Lifeline’s president filed a challenge to that decision. However, the student government association dismissed the challenge.
The student government took issue with the group’s constitution, which says: “Carleton Lifeline believes in the equal rights of the unborn and firmly believes that abortion is a moral and legal wrong, not a constitutional right. Therefore, Carleton lifeline shall work to promote the legal protection of the unborn and their basic human rights to life.” The student government claims the constitution violates the campus discrimination policies that call for “respect and affirm a woman’s right to choose her options in case of pregnancy.”
A letter at the time from the student government to Lifeline read: “We invite you to amend your constitution to create one that respects our anti-discrimination policy as laid out above. If you are able to resubmit a constitution that meets our criteria by Thursday, November 18th we will be able to certify your club for this semester.”
It maintains Carleton University Student Association regulations say no officially-recognized student group can use resources from the student government for “actions such as any campaign, distribution, solicitation, lobbying, effort, display, event etc. that seeks to limit or remove a woman’s right to choose.”
Ruth Lobo, president of Carleton Lifeline, told LifeNews.com at the time, “There are two major issues at hand here. First, is that we are being discriminated against because of our political and ideological values.”
“Second, CUSA has taken our club status away in a way that has violated their own procedural policies regarding re-certification and decertification. We have been a club for 3 years, so why now?” she continued.
Albertos Polizogopoulos, the attorney for the pro-life campus group, says the letter from the student government “was appalling” because it violates the rights to free speech and association of the members of the club. He confirmed the pro-life group is considering legal action. Polizogopoulos maintains that CUSA pointing out that their Discrimination on Campus Policy is in violation of CUSA’s own constitution and in violation of a number of Carleton University policies. He also pointed out that the manner in which CUSA denied Carleton Lifeline certification was not in line with CUSA’s own policies and procedures.
James Shaw, vice-president of Carleton Lifeline adds that even if other students disagree with their views, a student’s association must respect the diversity of opinion within their own membership.
“Our constitution has not changed since our club was first certified in 2007,” he said. “We have always received funding and status whenever we applied, and were always re-certified as a club from year to year.”
After Carleton Lifeline lost its status, the university said in a statement that it “will continue to be offered public space and tables on campus which is consistent with the university’s practice with respect to other student groups.”
The decision is so egregious that the pro-abortion Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the group are supporting Carleton Lifeline. Rosiers told the CBC the decision to revoke the status disrupts the group’s free speech rights.
“Associations like ours are pro-choice, but that doesn’t mean that you can deny the right to an anti-abortion group to have access to their facilities to express their views,” said Des Rosiers. “You are strengthening your choice view if you allow others to speak.”
After the decision, the group also received support in the United States, with Students for Life of America and National Campus Life Network in Canada jointly sponsoring a new website, StandWithCarleton.com, to assist the Carleton University Student group because it is facing discrimination. LifeNews.com is supporting the petition web site. [related]
Kristan Hawkins, the director of Students for Life, told LifeNews.com, “I am excited to launch this new site so that we can raise awareness about the situation at Carleton University and to also show our support for Carleton Lifeline’s courageous pro-life work. Carleton is discriminating against pro-life students, period. Pro-life students in America and around the world stand in solidarity with the Carleton pro-life students.”
‘If Carleton Lifeline loses their official group status, it would be a significant loss and would hinder their activities on campus by denying them the student space, resources and funding that all other clubs have access to,” she said.