Trespassing charges that had been pressed against pro-life students at Carleton University for putting up a pro-life displayed banned by the administration of their own college campus have been withdrawn.
On October 4, 2010, Carleton University had members of Lifeline handcuffed, arrested, charged and fined with trespassing for attempting to display an exhibit that the University administration deemed disturbing and offensive due to the graphic nature of the display. In November 2010, Carleton University’s administration provided Lifeline with an ultimatum regarding the expression of their opinions and threatened further arrests.
The University deemed the pro-life display to be “offensive” and directed the Ottawa Police Service to arrest and charge four Carleton University tuition-paying students and a Queen’s University student with trespassing. The charges were scheduled to proceed to trial today and tomorrow.
Now, Crown prosecutors have withdrawn those trespassing charges, the pro-life student group informs LifeNews.
The Crown stated that the basis for withdrawing the trespass charges is that the issues dealing with the relationship between a university and its students was already being dealt with in Lobo et al. v. Carleton University et al., the civil action brought by two Carleton Lifeline members, Ruth (Lobo) Shaw and John McLeod, against Carleton University and members of its administration.
In July, the Ontario Superior Court heard a motion brought by Carleton University which sought to strike Carleton Lifeline’s Statement of Claim, the document initiating the lawsuit. Had the university been successful, this would have ended the suit. In a split decision, Justice Toscano Roccamo ordered that the action could continue but ordered Carleton Lifeline to make several amendments to its Statement of Claim.
In a subsequent decision regarding costs of the motion to strike, Justice Toscano Roccamo ordered the students to pay Carleton University’s legal costs in the amount of $18,400.87 plus applicable taxes. Carleton University had asked that the students pay $21, 467.68 in legal fees.
“We are pleased that the Crown has decided to withdraw these unjust charges” said Ruth (Lobo) Shaw, former president of Carleton Lifeline. “We have always maintained that we had the right to exhibit the Genocide Awareness Project on campus and that our arrest was unlawful. The withdrawal of these unjust charges is confirmation of that fact.”
Despite the withdrawal of the charges, the civil action against Carleton University is ongoing.
“Although we no longer need to defend ourselves against the trespassing charges, a lot of work still needs to be done to move our lawsuit against Carleton University along and to clarify the legal rights of students to campus free speech and expression,” said John McLeod, current president of Carleton Lifeline.
Kristan Hawkins, the president of the U.S.-based Students for Life of America, says her group strongly supports the Carleton pro-life club in its lawsuit.
“Students for Life of America stands behind Carleton Lifeline today in their lawsuit against Carleton University. The discrimination and persecution they have faced for their pro-life beliefs is unbelievable. Carleton Lifeline has been heroic in their courage in the face of this discrimination and has led the way in exposing the disgusting hypocrisy of their Administration,” she told LifeNews.com.
Carleton University had attempted to get a court to dismiss the lawsuit the pro-life student group at Carleton University brought over the decision by the Carleton University student association to uphold a decision it made last year to kick out the pro-life group. Carleton Lifeline lost its club status in November 2010 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.