UVic's pro-choicers up the ante against pro-life club - Macleans.ca

UVic’s pro-choicers up the ante against pro-life club

Latest petition goes so far as to question existence of pro-life club Youth Protecting Youth


David J. A. Foster, a student blogger at the University of Victoria, reports that he has come across a petition calling for the indefinite suspension of the pro-life club Youth Protecting Youth. The petition, which was found in UVic’s students union building, goes farther than previous efforts by the University of Victoria Students’ Society to limit the club’s activities.

For nearly a year and a half, Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) and the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) have locked horns. Since October 2008, the UVSS has denied $232 in annual funding to which all clubs are entitled to. In October 2009 the UVSS board again voted to deny funding. Recently, the BC Civil Liberties Association asked the UVSS board to reconsider their position, arguing that denying funding is an unreasonable limit to freedom of speech on a university campus that should be a bastion of open debate. The board refused and BCCLA is threatening legal action. The Canadian Federation of Students has reportedly stepped up to offer the UVSS legal funding if the BCCLA makes good on its threat.

However, while UVSS has repeatedly refused to fund the anti-abortion club, it has not outright denied its status as a club. This gives the group the right to book space and other perks. This latest petition brings the controversy a step further by asking that the club be denied status full stop.

The petition asks the UVSS clubs council to consider a motion calling for the suspension of the group for “their repeated offensive actions.” These offensive actions, as described in a letter preceding the petition, include: use of GAP (Genocide Awareness Project) materials on campus and hosting the controversial anti-abortion activist Stephanie Gray on campus, who participated in a debate with a philosophy professor. “This is hate speech that caused harm to many people on campus, including but not limited to many women on campus who have had abortions,” the letter reads. “The images and the captions on the posters harassed women and tried to make us feel guilty about a choice that we have a right to make.”

First thing first, according to everyone I’ve spoken to about the topic, GAP materials–which typically feature graphic images of abortions next to those of horrific events like the Rwandan Genocide–have never been used on UVic campus. Ever. Not by Stephanie Gray or anyone. So what this boils down to is a group of students feeling offended by the posters and Stephanie Gray.

I wrote an article on the BCCLA’s legal action against the UVSS in December, which included a description of the event at which Gray spoke. You can read it here.

And as far as I can tell, this dispute is going to go as far as the courts allow. John Dixon of the BCCLA is candid about his organization’s determination to fight for YPY’s freedom of speech and I can’t think of a more aggressive sparring partner than a stubborn students’ association funded by the CFS.


UVic’s pro-choicers up the ante against pro-life club

  1. You state: “However, while UVSS has repeatedly refused to fund the anti-abortion club, it has not outright denied its status as a club. This gives the group the right to book space and other perks.” Since all university students pay union dues (which are used to fund clubs), why would the union fund a pro-choice group but not a pro-life group? This is illogical and discriminatory. To follow this logic to its natural conclusion, the pro-life group should be allowed to withold their union dues.

  2. I want to correct some misinformation that appears in the article.

    The UVSS cannot suspend a club indefinitely. What was recommended by Club’s Council to the Board of Directors was for a one year suspension of club status to YPY, which is within its purview to do if a club is found to be violating club behavior policy.

  3. The petition did call for the indefinite suspension of YPY’s status and funding. However, under UVSS clubs policy the maximum amount of time the club can be suspended is one year. So both statements are accurate.

    Clubs Council recommended to the Board to deny YPY status and funding for one year, but Directors-at-Large Kelsey Hannan and Nathan Warner maintain that under the BC Societies Act, the current Board cannot restrict the behavior of the next elected Board which takes office in May. On February 8 the Board will decide whether or not to follow Clubs Council’s recommendation.

  4. I was at UVic in the 1990’s and in fact GAP materials were posted on campus at that time. I also saw the same materials posted at UBC. I considered this to be a grave violation of my rights as a woman and I still feel the same way. I applaud the UVSS’ strong stand against this kind of hate literatur
    Also important to note is that the UVSS has been at loggerheads with YPY for certainly a decade or more, not just since 1998.
    It was my contention at the time and continues to be my contention that since the students on campus pay fees to the UVSS, it should be up to the student government and students as a whole, which groups should be approved or not approved for club status.
    This would mean that if the board voted to disallow club status – to YPY or any other club – it would be the voice of the students.

    This is a student led organization. There is nothing in the UVSS constitution that forces the UVSS to accept any organization as a club. I think that in a legal battle, the BCCLA

  5. would have a tough time winning the case. The University itself, being a public organization, would have a tougher time if they wanted to engage in such a legal battle – but i would say it’s unlikely they would do so.

  6. The idea that speaking up for the unborn is hate literature is self-serving ideological claptrap. Speaking up for one body of human beings does not entail hating another body of human beings. Speaking up for a minority does not mean you hate the majority. If you speak out against capitalism, does that mean you *hate* capitalists? It does not follow. But feminists are hijacking the discussion, speaking as if their view is the view of all or even most women. Students do pay fees. Are not pro-lifers students? Should only groups that are politically correct be allowed? Should no dissent be allowed for its views?

    You want to know the difference between a real right and an ideological belief? Consider that all blacks supported desegregation. All Jews support being treated equally. But not all women support abortion. Not all women would agree to this. Why? Because it’s not just about women, it’s also about the moral and legal status of the unborn child. That is the crux of the debate. Ironic isn’t it, that women are presented as the oppressed minority, when unborn children are the ones who are really being unrepresented.

    There is no right not to be offended. There is a right to present alternate views. There is a right to dissent. In fact, universities thrive on such a conflict of views. But it seems that the Student Society is not anxious to help the university live up to that function. Instead, it wants to be an ideologically-driven body that censors what it disagrees with. Clearly, then, it does not exist to serve the needs of ALL students, only those it agrees with.

  7. Again, the CFS and their cronies prove that they are against free speech and academic freedom. While the Genocide Awareness Project faces censorship, others such as “Feminists for Life” and the “Women’s Collective” are able to propagate their equally aggressive and misandric message throughout campuses across the province.

  8. As a current director at large on the UVic Student Society I will be voting on Monday to ensure our campus is free of discrimination against groups that hold opinions different than that of others. Personally I am pro-choice and I am very against any laws of regulations that would restrict someone from accessing an abortion. However, I recognize the moral debate about the rights of the unborn. I believe that open discussion and debate is the only way for people to make an informed decision themselves on the issue of abortion. It is very troubling to me that some people believe this issue is so clear cut that they want to completely ban a groups right to free speech and freedom of association. If we cannot ask tough questions at a university, a place which thrives on though questions and seeking to find the truth, than what will be next?

    I want everyone’s voice to be heard on this and I encourage everyone who is in the Victoria area to come to our board meeting on Monday Feb 8th at 6PM. It will be in the Student Union Building’s upper lounge. Our meetings are open to the public so feel free to come even if you are not a student here at UVic. Also watch http://twitter.com/eyeontheuvss for coverage of the meeting.

  9. I understand that women (and men) who deeply believe in the right to terminate a pregnancy do not want to feel guilty about their beliefs or actions. However, I think it is erroneous to say that posters, however graphic, MAKE them feel such and such a way. If you believe that abortion is moral, then you should not be surprised at what one looks like. You should look at it for what it really is- the termination of a developing human being in-utero and not be shaken. In a society so very de-sensitized to violence, and so very dependent on visual information, I think it is strange that women could be DENIED the right to know -visually- what will be done in such a surgery, and then be asked to make a “choice.” I suppose my argument is, in a nutshell, that an uninformed choice is no choice at all.

    (Similarly, a choice made of social or financial necessity is not really a choice. Perhaps we need to rethink our cultural expectations of women, their fertility, and the division of family & public life… why don’t our babies come with us to work and school like they do everywhere else in the world? Why is efficiency and productivity more important than raising our young? How is this feminism?)

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  12. I don’t understand the opposition to the YPY. Limiting an organizations freedom to protest, freedom of speech, freedom of press sounds a tad oppressive and shows that if your views do not match that of the governing student body than your voice can not be heard. I think that the UVSS over estimate their power and importance and the little bit of authority granted them by the University to approve funding does not supersede the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
    In Regards to the woman who reacted to the images of abortions and said, “The images and the captions on the posters harassed women and tried to make us feel guilty about a choice that we have a right to make.”
    She does have the legal right to make that decision, but she wants a society where abortions happen without any guilt or thoughtful consideration. I can’t believe this woman’s insensitivity and carelessness of human life. She has the right to make that choice, but the YPY has every bit as much of a right to make the public aware of the consequences of that choice.

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