Judge Says It’s OK Students for Life Group Was Discriminated Against Against Because It Got More Attention

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 1, 2018   |   2:19PM   |   Ottawa, Canada

A University of Toronto Mississauga pro-life club lost a legal battle to receive official university recognition this month, the latest in a long line of discrimination cases against pro-life students.

Justice Paul Perell, who heard the pro-life students’ case on Jan. 24, blamed the students for “overreacting” to the rejection of their club, The Varsity reports. Perell also said the students gained a lot of recognition and publicity as a result of their lawsuit, more than if the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union had approved their club.

“SFL probably gained more publicity and support for its cause by the denial of official club status than it would garner by being a Union Club,” Perell wrote in his decision.

He said the students’ freedom of expression was not violated because their Students for Life club continues to function on campus, though not officially recognized by the union.

The UTM Students for Life sought official club recognition from the student union more than two years ago, but the union denied its request. Official club status provides benefits such as allowing students to apply for university funding for events and other projects.

Students Diane Zettel, Cameron Grant and Chad Hagel filed a lawsuit challenging the union decision in January 2016, the report states.

Here’s more from the report:

The UTMSFL members allege that the UTMSU informed them that the club would not be granted official club status due to its anti-abortion stance. In his submission, [lawyer for the pro-life students Marty] Moore told the judge that the UTMSU subsequently changed its reasoning and attempted to deny the club for technical violations. It is alleged that the UTMSU told the club, which only had three executive members, that it needed four executives in order to qualify for official club status and that it had to amend its constitution to be compliant with the UTMSU’s requirements and elect a fourth executive at a general meeting.

“[Then-UTMSU Vice-President Campus Life Russ Adade] kept on coming up with new requirements, including, at the end, ‘I have to be present at your meeting when you vote.’ The applicants said, ‘Fine, come to our meeting. We’ll do a re-vote. We’ll re-enact our constitutional amendments,’” Moore told the judge.

The applicants also allege that Adade brought five people who were not members of UTMSFL to attend the meeting and vote against the election of the fourth executive.

Adade denied the allegations.

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In his decision, Perell said the union displayed “incompetence” in its interactions with the pro-life club, but he did not believe its actions were in bad faith.

And while he did not blame Adade, Perell said the five non-members who showed up to the pro-life club should not have been allowed to vote at the meeting.

The club’s lawyer said they are considering whether to appeal.

Pro-life students in the United States also have had to take legal action after their colleges or high schools refused to recognize their pro-life clubs.

University students in the United Kingdom face similar discrimination. In 2016, the British group Alliance of Pro-Life Students reported its students are under “constant attack” at universities in the UK. According to the APS blog, students at the University of Newcastle recently tried to de-ratify the campus pro-life club, claiming it “is a discriminatory group that alienates and will make many young women feel unwelcome on campus and therefore this society is against union policy.”