Oh, York Federation of Students - Macleans.ca

Oh, York Federation of Students

Yet another students’ union bans pro-life clubs. When will they learn?


The York Federation of Students moved forward its campaign to censor the abortion debate on campus this week.

Last week, the York Federation of Students moved a motion calling on locals of the Canadian Federation of Students to ban anti-abortion groups from holding student group status on their campus and to create pro-choice organizing kits. The motion passed.

This weekend, the YFS plans to pass a motion which will ban all anti-abortion groups from holding club status at York University. To its credit, the university is standing up to this attack on free speech by promising to grant replacement resources to pro-life groups to enable a free and fair debate on the campus of York University.

I’ll never truly understand the York Federation of Students. Why they are granting their opponents coveted “victim status” is beyond me. The anti-abortion side is not winning the campus debate and only represents a small minority of students. They are often ignored by students and are not a threat to the pro-choice side.

By silencing them, the YFS is making them stronger. I never write about the abortion debate in the context of the debate. I only write about it in the context of free speech. The anti-abortion side is benefiting from the attention they are receiving as free speech “martyrs.”

I will cover the first debate they hold in the fall, not because I’m particularly interested in the topic. I will be there to see if the debate is silenced. If it’s not, then I will write a story about the discussion. If they are silenced, then that’s my story. Either way, the anti-abortion side is getting media attention they normally would not receive. I would never write about this debate otherwise.

The YFS may think they are doing society a favour by silencing their opponents, but all their doing is showing is how intolerant they are and how out of place the students union is on a campus of enlightened ideas.

Filed under:

Oh, York Federation of Students

  1. Wow, it never ceases to amaze me how the facts don’t stand in the way of a MacLeans story.

    Joey: did you even read the motion?

  2. Okay, I’ll bite, Anonymous Coward. By all means, please post the motion. If you would be so kind, please also include all of the “whereas” clauses.

    I’m perfectly willing to entertain the notion that the YFS has been maligned here. If the motion doesn’t really convey the point that Joey is making I’m willing to judge that for myself. But you’ll have to actually present the evidence, if you want anyone to do that.

  3. I’m very interested to see what you have to offer. There is a real story here if both the National Post and I are wrong.
    I’d be pleasantly surprised if the YFS changed its stance on freedom of speech to something more compatible to an university environment.

  4. This was the motion as presented to, and passed by, the CFS plenary:

    “Be it resolved that member locals that refuse to allow anti-choice organisations access to their resources and space be supported; and

    Be it further resolved that a pro-choice organising kit be created that may include materials such as a fact sheet, buttons, contact information for local pro-choice organisations and research on anti-choice organisations and the conservative think-tanks that fund them.”

  5. I think Anonymous Coward says he/she has the wording of the YFS motion.

    Also, the motion passed at CFS-Ontario last August was identical to the one Nick quoted (from CFS National, I suppose).

    What is interesting however is that at the same CFS-Ontario meeting in August, the following motion was passed about a free speech campaign (sorry for the length):


    “Whereas the Federation believes that post-secondary institutions should be a forum to discuss a diversity of opinions and debate controversial society issues; and

    Whereas the Federation believes that students and other members of the campus community should not be barred or punished for lawfully exercising their freedom of expression and freedom of association; and

    Whereas there are documented cases, such as the case of the Risk Assessment Committee at Concordia University, where universities would disallow student initiatives related to controversial issues due to an alleged security risk; and

    Whereas at other universities, like the University of Ottawa, campus security services must pre-approve any document publicly distributed by students; and

    Whereas there are documented cases, such as the case of Dan Freeman-Maloy at York University, where students were penalized in various ways (trespass notice, suspension, etc.) for participating in lawful demonstrations; and

    Whereas the University of Ottawa Protection services are currently investigating, following student complaints, intimidation and use of physical force by security officers during a lawful October 30th, 2007 student demonstration on campus;

    Be it resolved that the Executive be mandated to draft a campaign proposal concerning freedom of expression and freedom of association on campus, to be presented at the next general meeting;

    Be it further resolved that a letter be sent to the University of Ottawa to denounce the October 30th attempts to intimidate students participating in a lawful demonstration; and

    Be it further resolved that member locals be encouraged to send similar letters.”

  6. To reply to Nick Taylor-Vaisey, having posted the wording of the motion that was adopted by the CFS, I have to agree that the National Post’s presentation of the issue (and by extension Joey’s) was somewhat skewed. The line between supporting member locals that refuse status and resources to anti-abortion groups, and actually calling on member locals to do that, is of debatable significance. When this resolution is married to an action plan calling on the CFS to prepare resources to oppose anti-abortion groups, it colours the intention still more.

    Regardless, there is a difference between supporting member locals that refuse status and resources to anti-abortion groups, and actually calling on anyone to do that. Coverage that suggests that the later occurred, when it did not, is wrong. This is an ironic application of the “supporting your right to do something even though I don’t agree with doing it” position, since that position is usually deployed in favour of free expression, but it’s still coherent. All the CFS has done is take a position that member locals be allowed to “ban” anti-abortion groups, rather than encouraged to do so. We can all debate the subtleties of that distinction, but it’s fair to at least acknowledge it exists.

    That’s on the CFS’s side, btw. What the YFS does on it’s own accord may very well go further, and it seems to be doing just that. I’ll be interested to see what comes out of their own meetings.

  7. There is a lot of grey in this debate. “Grey areas” are always difficult to convey in a short opinion post. That’s the great thing about comments, they allow for more clarity.

    If the York Federation of Students does not wish to directly fund the anti-abortion side of this debate, they should be able to exercise that option. Where they go too far is when they decide to censor the debate.

    The YFS has a responsibility to not infringe upon negative rights. On the flip side, there is no requirement for the YFS to treat freedom of speech as a positive right. I do not believe the YFS is required to facilitate free speech on the York University (and frankly don’t believe them capable of doing so) but it is required to not interfere with free speech.

  8. Hey Joey

    Yeah, I entirely agree with your points as you just presented them. But I wanted to do justice to the “Anonymous Coward” that called for discussion of the motion as it was worded. He (she?) does, after all, have a point.

    I object to self-interested shading of issues whenever it occurs. I suppose it’s inevitable to some extent, but where it goes too far it should be called out. I think the National Post article goes too far, and veers into untruth. I still think the CFS and the YFS are wrong here, but they deserve to be called wrong for what they actually did, rather than some exaggeration of it.

    The part about the CFS preparing information on the “conservative think tanks” that fund anti-abortion efforts is particularly amusing to me. I don’t doubt for an instant that anti-abortion groups are supported by conservative organizations. But I fail to see how the CFS scores any points by pointing this out. The CFS itself is aligned with any number of political groups, of a decidedly leftist bent. This sort of organizing is the bread and butter of CFS politics – and while I think the CFS errs by moving too far outside of core student issues, I can’t fault them for bridge-building. I don’t understand how anyone is surprised that groups on the other side do the same thing.

  9. I’m writing to express my deep concern over the silencing of pro life students on the York Campus! This is Canada where we the RIGHT to freedom of speech. This does not apply to York? As a recent graduate of Dalhousie University and a woman, I have to say that this decision is not only detrimental to women all over Canada but to our Charter of Rights as Canadians! Education is not about forcing one’s views on society, it’s about debate, being open minded and respectfully disagreeing with others. True education does not force its views and agenda’s unto the student body. Stop forcing your morality and values on the entire student population at York. The pro abortion students always talk about the pro lifers not being ‘open minded’, yet this is the very thing that is not occurring on your campus by your pro ‘choice’ students. If York students are truly for “choice”, choosing LIFE is one of the choices available. What scares you in regards to promoting life and protection of women from the harms of abortion? It appears that your University does not want the TRUTH of abortion and all it’s harm to be exposed. Abortion hurts women and women are starting to speak out about how their abortion hurt them and the lies they were told, one being that it would make everything better. It’s a life, in fact, abortion is a sign that society has let women down! When women have to choose between education and sacrificing the child in their womb, it proves that women actually feel they have no choice at all! We will NEVER have peace in our world, until there is peace in the womb! Let the violence stop here!

    Universities should provide a supportive environment for women who are pregnant on campus. But, it’s the very last thing that is happening; instead, women are being pressured not to tell their parents, and are petrified of losing their education. Pro choice? Hardly. Only ONE choice is allowed to be expressed at York. Open mindedness? Hardly.

    We can’t forget that abortion stops a beating heart and ends a life of another person. A woman innately understands this in the core of her being, that is why abortion hurts so much. A woman is a mother from the moment of conception onwards. Abortion interrupts and takes away the life within her and it is a pain that never goes away, despite all the healing that is offered. There is something about knowing that you can never meet this child and that you were responsible for the taking of a human life. Pro woman? No. Science, not pro lifers, not religion clearly states that a NEW human person is present at the moment of conception. A person exists who has separate DNA, a new personality, blood type, etc. Humans reproduce humans, not tissues or clumps of cells. Nor are we replica’s of our mother. What about the rights of the unborn women to THEIR bodies? They are not protected, in fact they are literally torn apart under their mother’s own beating heart. How can we call this choice GOOD? We are failing our women by lying to them and making it sound nice by calling it ‘choice.’ Some choices are not good choices and hurt us immensely…like abortion. (For those suffering from abortion, please know that you are loved and help is available to you in a very loving, non judgmental setting. You do not need to suffer in silence anymore. There is hope and healing. Please check out http://www.projectrachel.ca)

    Do the right thing and allow students at York the freedom of speech that our Charter of Rights allows! I am appalled at the censorship and forcing minds to conform to YOUR agenda! This is SHOCKING and WRONG!

    I will never recommend your University to anyone until you allow real education to occur at your school. Stop the silencing, stop the lies!

  10. Pingback: Canadian University Student Government Bans Pro-Life Advocacy « Gabriel Malor

  11. Pingback: Why do pro-choice student unions try to censor debate? : Macleans OnCampus