Huffington Post Canada

U of C abortion display verdict not a victory for free speech

The University of Calgary recently reversed the guilty verdict of seven pro-life students who were found guilty of non-academic misconduct for setting up a display with graphic photos comparing abortion to the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide. The University of Calgary initially demanded that the students set up their display facing inwards so passersby would not see the images. After the students refused, the University charged and found the students guilty of misconduct for failing to follow the demands issued by Campus Security. The students appealed to the University’s Board of Governors, which found their appeal groundless and dismissed the case. The students appealed to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, which ordered the University to rehear the appeal, after which the students were found not guilty.

The court decision has been heralded by some as being a victory for free speech on campus. The court ruling focused on the procedural aspect of the law rather than the substantive claim that the students’ right to free expression had been violated. The Court shied away from making any finding on the students’ right to erect the display: it directly stated that “it would be premature at this juncture” to rule on the right of students to erect the display on University property, or to force a change in University policy. Rather, the decision focused solely on the decision of the Board of Governors’ Committee denying the students their appeal hearing on the basis that it was groundless.

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Guelph Mercury

Bus ad protesters are taking wrong path as opponents

There is an issue irking online petitioners regarding the presence of anti-abortion advertisements on Guelph Transit buses.

A petition on change.org with more than 2,000 signatures is calling on Guelph Transit to remove them.

A quick search of the issue reveals that citizens have posed complaints to their councillors on this issue before.

The response on the blogs of Ward 2 and Ward 4 notes that: “The City of Guelph does not endorse any businesses or associations who advertise on transit buses, shelters or benches … All advertisements that could be in violation of Guelph Transit’s advertising policy are reviewed … and are approved or denied based on the policy. The current Guelph and Area Right to Life advertisement does not contravene our advertising policy and although the advertisement may be considered controversial in nature, refusing to post the advertisement could be seen as limiting freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

This response is correct, but it should read “refusing to post the advertisement would be seen as limiting freedom of expression under the charter.”

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Huffington Post Canada

Why Harper should hug his backbenchers tight

One year ago today, few would have predicted the incredible emergence of an empowered backbench resulting from an increasingly agitated Conservative caucus and an unprecedented ruling by the Speaker.

Beginning with Stephen Woodworth’s motion to re-examine the issue of the definition of a human being, a number of Harper’s Cabinet colleagues, including Jason Kenney and Rona Ambrose, supported the motion despite Harper’s wishes to vote against.

Harper noted in January that he had no intention of reopening the abortion debate; at the same time, three Conservative MPs sent a letter on official letterhead asking the RCMP to investigate abortions as “possible murders.” I’ve argued previously that Harper should have enforced collective Cabinet solidarity on this motion to remain true to his word.

MP Brent Rathgeber recently left the Conservative caucus to sit as an Independent in the House of Commons after the Government refused to support his Private Member’s Bill on public sector disclosure.

On his blog soon after resigning he noted that:

The Committee hearings (as all are) were a charade. The decisions on amendments were made by unelected staffers weeks before the Committee hearings even commenced. Compliant MPs just do what they are told by PMO staffers. That the PMO operates so opaquely and routinely without supervision is an affront to the constitutional requirements of responsible government and is also the genesis of the current Duffy/Wright debacle.

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Huffington Post Canada

Waterloo should not stifle free speech

At the University of Waterloo last week, Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth was scheduled to speak to a group of students at an event organized by the Students for Life campus club. Stephen Woodworth, a staunchly pro-life MP, had previously brought forth a motion in Parliament to strike a committee to review the Criminal Code definition of when a child becomes a human being. The motion was voted down, with the Prime Minister and most of his Cabinet voting in opposition.

While many of us may not share Mr. Woodworth’s sentiments regarding abortion, no one has the right to impose a viewpoint on another. We may challenge views we find unattractive, but we do not have the right to silence or suppress unpopular ideas.

Unfortunately, a group of students shut down Mr. Woodworth’s speech by shouting him down, until he was left with no choice but to cancel the event. In what can only be described as an act of idiocy, a Mr. Ethan Jackson, dressed as a giant vagina, shouted, “Who do you think you are trying to impose your bigotry, your views on society through your Christian monotheism?”

The President of the University of Waterloo issued a press release that supported the values of free speech and condemned the actions of the protesters as “an attack on our presence as s a place where issues are explored, discussed and debated.” A review of the incident is currently underway.

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