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Canadian University Womyn's Centre Trying To Exclude Pro-Life Groups

from funding and space generally available to other student groups. The university student association vice-president for student services agrees; so does a student association vice-president at another Canadian school.

Anti-abortion speech, the theory goes, is "gender-discriminatory," and debate about abortion upsets some women because it "happen[s] in a space that they thought they were safe and protected, and that respected their rights and freedoms." So reports the A student newspaper at Carleton University in Ottawa:

Sparks flew during question period at a Nov. 21 Carleton University Students' Association (CUSA) council meeting after a motion that would prevent pro-life groups from assembling on CUSA space was tabled.

The motion -— moved by Katy McIntyre, CUSA vice-president (student services), on behalf of the Womyn's Centre -— would amend the campus discrimination policy to state that "no CUSA resources, space, recognition or funding be allocated for anti-choice purposes." ...

According to McIntyre, anti-choice groups are gender-discriminatory and violate CUSA's safe space practices.

The motion focuses on anti-choice groups because they aim to abolish freedom of choice by criminalizing abortion. McIntyre said this discriminates against women, and that it violates the Canadian Constitution by removing a woman's right to "life, liberty and security" of person....

McIntyre said she received complaints after Lifeline organized an academic debate on whether or not elective abortion should be made illegal.

"[These women] were upset the debate was happening on campus in a space that they thought they were safe and protected, and that respected their rights and freedoms," said McIntyre....

Julien de Bellefeuille, Student Federation of the University of Ottawa vice-president (university affairs), said that although his student association does not currently have any policies regulating anti-choice groups, he said the motion is a good idea and something that his school should adopt as well.

CUSA's motion will be formally debated at their next council meeting Dec. 5, during which council will vote to pass the motion....

The newspaper also reported that student organization officials at other schools do not share Ms. McIntyre's and Mr. Bellefeuille's views.

Thanks to Rich Poupard for the pointer.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Pro-Life Speech Excluded from General Funding Program at Carleton University (Ontario):
  2. Canadian University Womyn's Centre Trying To Exclude Pro-Life Groups
elChato (mail):
Man, that is good for a laugh.

Are these people real? Have any of them ever had a job? Does Rush Limbaugh pay them to say these things? It's like a cartoon.
11.28.2006 4:57pm
JosephSlater (mail):
An unfortunate and, in my view, incorrect position for some folks at a Canadian University to take.

Maybe not as important as Newt Gingrich publicly taking the position that we'll have to re-examine freedom of speech doctrine and very possibly use a "different set of rules" in order to fight terrorism, though (see today's Manchester Union Leader on line).
11.28.2006 4:59pm
A.S.:
Does Rush Limbaugh pay them to say these things?

Heh. Ms. McIntyre's and Mr. Bellefeuille's seemingly fascist views would place them right into Rush's "feminazi" category, wouldn't it?
11.28.2006 5:33pm
Captain Holly (mail):
Maybe not as important as Newt Gingrich publicly taking the position that we'll have to re-examine freedom of speech doctrine and very possibly use a "different set of rules" in order to fight terrorism, though (see today's Manchester Union Leader on line).

If you mean that in the sense this controversy is happening in Canada (which doesn't directly affect you) and you're in the States (which might, if Gingrich could get his idea accepted by Congress), then you're correct.

But if you mean it in the sense that Gingrich merely putting forth a controversial idea is worse than a University actually voting to outlaw certain types of speech, then you're being silly.
11.28.2006 5:38pm
CEB:
Campus leftists seek to supress debate. In other news, water is wet and the sky is blue.
11.28.2006 5:43pm
JB:
The majority of pro-life people I know are women.

Guess they don't count.

Remember, folks, it's only discrimination if white men do it. (And even then, if they do it to other white men, it's not discrimination anyhow).
11.28.2006 6:06pm
Russ (mail):
Wouldn't want those pesky opposing viewpoints to get in the way!
11.28.2006 6:11pm
Friedrich Foresight:
Oh, dear, pass the smelling salts!

These women are such delicate flowers. Imagine - the shock of being exposed to views you disagree with. Perhaps they should not be allowed at university without permission slips from their husbands?

It's not as if left-wing student union politicians would ever, eg, tell someone who supported the Iraq War "You're in favour of murder." No, they'd be far more polite and civil than that... wouldn't they?
11.28.2006 6:12pm
ray_g:
'...debate about abortion upsets some women because it "happen[s] in a space that they thought they were safe and protected, and that respected their rights and freedoms."

So what happens in the debate - do they get the vapors?
11.28.2006 6:17pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Maybe not as important as Newt Gingrich publicly taking the position that we'll have to re-examine freedom of speech doctrine and very possibly use a "different set of rules" in order to fight terrorism, though (see today's Manchester Union Leader on line).


Uh-huh, well maybe you can provide us with an actual transcript of what Newt Gingrich actually said rather than just the words "different set of rules" and we can discuss whether or not his "position" is a threat to free speech.

In the meantime, back to the topic at hand.
11.28.2006 6:18pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Thorley:

I couldn't get the link to work in my first post (my incompetence, I admit), but the quote is easily found on the web. Check out the link at the Huffington Post.

Captain Holly:

I explicitly stated in my first post that the position taken by the proponents of banning anti-choice speech was wrong, and I'll repeat here it would be a bad thing if the University adopted that position.

I still, however, am more worried by a major U.S. political leader talking about weakening the First Amendment protections of speech because of an indefinite, undefined "war on terror." If that makes me silly in your eyes, so be it.
11.28.2006 7:13pm
Nathan_M (mail):
What surprises me most about this is that there is a significant anti-abortion group at Carlton. I went to a debate at the University of Toronto featuring Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Canada's most prominent abortion doctor (he was the accused in R. v. Morgentaler - roughly the Canadian equivalent of Roe v. Wade) and there were no protesters of any sort. Dr. Morgentaler's talk was formally debate (it was sponsored by a debate society), but anti-abortion side was represented by students who did not necessarily personally supported the position they took. There was certainly no doubt about the audiences' sympathies.

Apparently 78% of Canadians answer yes to the question "Should women have complete freedom on their decision to have an abortion?", so one can imagine the atmosphere on a university campus.

It seems all the more pathetic to stop those who disagree with you form forming a club to discuss their views once the public debate (at least in terms of government policy) is basically over.
11.28.2006 7:15pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Hmm, while my initial reaction is the same as everyone Else's after more thought I think these people might have a plausible case if racist or other groups advocating bad things are discriminated against/denied space.

I mean if it is justified to ban groups that openly advocate for racial separation or hold demonstrations arguing that blacks are inferior and ought not to be allowed to go to school what makes abortion so different? Presumably the reason one bans pro-racist groups is that you think that the policies they support are extremely harmful and even the advocacy of these policies causes distress and tension. Yet if you believe (as many people reasonably do) that not only are bans on abortion extremely harmful and discriminatory but that advocacy creates distress and tension then what reason for the distinction?

I personally think the schools ought to allow any peaceful expression of views in the relevantly designated areas. However, I think I'm willing to bite a bullet here that most people aren't.

I mean would the rest of you react similarly if they were doing the same thing to groups walking around with signs saying "Sterilize Niggers"? Or what if it was a pro-rape group carrying signs saying, "legalize rape," and "women should be property?"

If not then it seems the only difference is you disagree on what counts as a reasonable position. But surely it is reasonable to believe that being anti-abortion is not reasonable.

--

As an aside this is one of the problems I have with all these posts about liberals suppressing free speech (apart from the assumption there is some entity the left who is responsible for all the stupid shit college students do). It seems much of criticism really has more to do with a difference in values and what counts as speech that is 'beyond the pale' than a real difference over free speech.

I tend to agree that anti-abortion isn't beyond the pale while extreme racism or pro-rape is but I don't think that's such a telling difference.
11.28.2006 7:21pm
tsotha:
Canadian colleges are no worse than those in the US. It never ceases to amaze me how denizens of the academy are creating tools that will eventually be used to silence them.

It's fascism. Not the phoney Bushitler-NSA-wiretap-crying-wolf-fascism we've been hearing from the left all these years, but the real thing. To be opposed to the "correct" view has now become a kind of thoughtcrime, by which you lose your status as a person to be treated as an equal. We're only a few years the point where the anti-abortion people (as well as anybody who voices opinions contrary to the prevailing winds) will be ejected from campus for disrupting the harmony of the group.

Notice the way conservative speakers are now routinely shouted down and assaulted on tax supported US campuses, with the encouragement, or at least acquiescence, of campus faculty.

This will all end very badly in about a generation.
11.28.2006 7:22pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Hmm, it occurs to me carelton very likely isn't private. Well the rest of my argument still stands, especially as Canada tends to be less absolutist about free speech than the states.
11.28.2006 7:22pm
Heather:
As far as I recall (having gone to one many years ago), all Canadian universities are public.
11.28.2006 8:02pm
Friedrich Foresight:
> "But surely it is reasonable to believe that being anti-abortion is not reasonable."

Now we're in Stanley Fish territory. Should the question be "can you plausibly believe that position X is insane?", or "would you be insane to believe that position X is plausible?"

Appeals to what 78% of the populace find palatable could well backfire on the progressive souls concerned. A lot of suburban dads and soccer moms want abortion available "just in case". They would be much less tolerant about what they view as deviant sexual and other social practices.

My own criterion is: Does this person or group share my basic conviction that all human beings are entitled to equal concern and respect? Outright racists (by which I do *not* include people who say "Interesting that you support feminism and gay rights, but don't consider it worth discussing how these will fare in a society with Muslim majority or large minority") don't qualify. There is nothing to say to them. "My race is better than yours, because it's my race" is not an argument that seeks to persuade. It's an assertion, a prelude to a dispute that ultiimately can only be resolved by force.

What about abortion? If someone were anti-abortion because they believed "Women should be the property of their husbands", they would fail this test. If someone were anti-abortion because they believed "Children's lives should be at the sufferance of their parents" or "get rid of the poor and the minorities before they clog up our jails and our welfare rolls", they would also fail.

However, most pro- and anti-abortion speakers do not hold their views for these reasons. The vast majority accept the principle of "equal rights for all humans" but weigh or prioritise these rights differently in cases where rights conflict.
11.28.2006 8:24pm
Richard Weeds (mail):
First I thought it was a typographical error.

I got it!

There are no "men" in the Womyn's Centre.
11.28.2006 8:36pm
EricH (mail):
Mere advocacy of a policy or law that is viewed as discriminatory is forbidden?

Great.

What was Rousseau's line: "We must force men to be free by freeing the mind of error".
11.28.2006 8:40pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"If not then it seems the only difference is you disagree on what counts as a reasonable position. But surely it is reasonable to believe that being anti-abortion is not reasonable."

No it's not reasonable. Being against abortion is not like being for lynching or forcible rape. As far as I know very few people ever supported rape or lynching, but at one time majority once overwhelmingly opposed abortion. At a certain point, abortion is clearly infanticide. Is it unreasonable to oppose that? Who speaks for the baby? Is the baby a non-person just because the mother says so? Who gets to decide when an argument that does not lead to immediate harm is so unreasonable that the state should have the power to silence it? Is that really the kind of world you want to live in?

Look at how meek conservatives are. Where is the outrage by Canadian conservatives against this naked abrogation of free speech? The dirty little secret we have today is that conservatives are really liberals at heart, or cowards.
11.28.2006 8:41pm
Friedrich Foresight:
Correcting myself:

'If someone were PRO-abortion because they believed "Children's lives should be at the sufferance of their parents" or "get rid of the poor and the minorities before they clog up our jails and our welfare rolls", they would also fail.'
11.28.2006 9:02pm
ReaderY:
Should advocates of immigrant's rights also be banned from speaking, given that they threaten to deprive citizens of their right to low-cost domestic labor? Doesn't such talk make women who depend on these rights to live an autonomous lifestyle feel insecure and unsafe?
11.28.2006 9:38pm
FantasiaWHT:
"Womyn's" Center...

didn't have to read any further than that to know all I needed to know about this story
11.28.2006 9:55pm
Swede:
Tell me, what does one do at a Womyn's Centre?
Do they serve fysh and chyps there?

Imagyne, the left has it's own fascyst training centre.

Who'd a thunk?
11.28.2006 10:09pm
Cornellian (mail):
As far as I recall (having gone to one many years ago), all Canadian universities are public.

They're not all public, but any Canadian university anyone has heard of is public. The private ones are all tiny, obscure outfits completely unknown more than about 10 blocks from their campus. I believe McGill University in Montreal is the sole exception - a private university that actually has some name recognition among Canadians.
11.28.2006 10:33pm
Gasman:
'...debate about abortion upsets some women because it "happen[s] in a space that they thought they were safe and protected, and that respected their rights and freedoms."

I'll bet your average aborted fetus thought they were in a space where they were safe and protected and that respected their rights (to life) and freedoms
11.28.2006 10:45pm
godfodder (mail):
Jeepers... nothing creates a fascist quicker than the desire to avoid being uncomfortable. The University once counted "challenging assumptions" among its primary functions. Now it's the sort of thing that gets you banned from campus.

Even more disappointing is how fast the freewheeling, anti-violence, "I'm Ok, you're Ok" crowd reached for the cudgel. What's worse, all this hardball is over a relatively small policy argument. The future of our society (or of humanity) doesn't exactly rest on the question of abortion.

Agree or disagree with Newt Gingrich, at least he is referencing a substantial threat to a lot of people's lives, if not of our entire society. Islamic fundamentalism has annnounced its intention to convert the infidels of the West, or destroy them. Last time I checked, anti-abortionists were not advocating the wholesale slaughter of anyone. They call themselves "pro-life," afterall.
11.28.2006 10:53pm
Byomtov (mail):
As far as I know very few people ever supported rape or lynching,

I don't know about rape, but I can assure you that a great many people in the pre-civil rights era in fact supported lynching. Proposed federal anti-lynching legislation was quite controversial for a long time, and was strongly opposed by southerners, at least.
11.28.2006 11:04pm
Friedrich Foresight:
> "Proposed federal anti-lynching legislation was quite controversial for a long time, and was strongly opposed by southerners, at least"

Was this because they thought lynching should be legal, or because they thought state rather than federal law was the appopriate means to criminalise it? Was their position an early forerunner of the position of some pro-choice people? ("I am personally opposed, but the federal government should not be involved this matter...")
11.28.2006 11:10pm
Friedrich Foresight:
Moreover, to the extent that one can criticise certain factions as "not sufficiently worried about rape/ lynching to support effective legislative action against it" (eg, MPs in certain Muslim nations who agree that rape should be criminal but add that, unless the woman has four male witnesses to her non-consent, she is liable for adultery)... one could, by the same token, criticise the ACLU and the Warren Court for being "soft on" murder, rape, and other crimes that went unpunished because of their strict interpretation of the rules of criminal procedure. Can we say the Miranda Court "supported" the abduction, rape and murder of young girls? Sauce for the geese, etc (or "gyyse" to use the PC spelling).
11.28.2006 11:14pm
Dave Ruddell (mail):
I believe McGill University in Montreal is the sole exception - a private university that actually has some name recognition among Canadians.

Nope, McGill is public. Your initial thought was correct, Cornellian, all the name universities are public. There are a few (mostly religious) universities that are not.
11.28.2006 11:51pm
Barry P. (mail):
I think it needs to be clarified here that this issue is not about the policies of the university, as some have implied, but about the policies of a student government. The motion on the table is about denying the anti-abortionists access to resources of the student government - space, money, etc.

Why anybody is paying attention to an as-yet-unvoted-upon motion placed before a student council in Canada is beyond me. It's about as important as a group of Shriners arguing about their by-laws.

When I was an engineering undergrad in Canada, we faced far greater repression than this from University management.
11.29.2006 12:06am
Woodstock (mail) (www):
I agree with Barry P. This story is being overblown by this crowd, and it shows that you have a position (anti-liberal) you are trying to justify. And that is coming from a non-liberal libertarian. This is not a story about a school policy being imposed on all students. It is not about freedom of speech. It is a story about resources. Much like the debate about public funding of any position. Much like the debate about so-called faith-based initiatives. Or about ten commandments on government property.


The students have simply said that they do not desire to use THEIR student government resources to fund this sort of position and I think that is acceptable. If the anti-choice groups want to make their case off of the Student Association property they can feel free to. Did you guys even read the article or did you freak out as soon as you saw it was about pro-choicers accomplishing anything?
11.29.2006 12:45am
Woodstock (mail) (www):
AND QUOTES LIKE THIS: "It's fascism. Not the phoney Bushitler-NSA-wiretap-crying-wolf-fascism we've been hearing from the left all these years, but the real thing" shows just how nuts some of you are.

How do you compare attempts by a student group to democratically make rules concerning how student resources be allocated to ACTUAL actions by the EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF A GOVERNMENT OF AN ENTIRE NATION to tread on the rights of its citizens? And suspend habeus corpus. And violate the Geneva Convention. And violate the 4th amendment of the U.S. Constitution by wiretapping without a warrant.

THERE IS NO COMPARISON.
11.29.2006 12:56am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> I mean if it is justified to ban groups that openly advocate for racial separation or hold demonstrations arguing that blacks are inferior and ought not to be allowed to go to school what makes abortion so different?

Where are such groups and demonstrations banned?
11.29.2006 1:19am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"I don't know about rape, but I can assure you that a great many people in the pre-civil rights era in fact supported lynching."

I don't know where you are from, but I was around during the days before civil rights legislation, and no one other than a very few extremists would have supported lynching. Even in the Deep South. Being opposed to a specific anti-lynching law does not mean one supports lynching. There are people today who oppose hate-crime laws, but certainly don't advocate crimes of hate or any other crime.

BTW just how many people do you think were lynched in the whole history of the republic?
11.29.2006 4:34am
Kevin P. (mail):
Woodstock:

The students have simply said that they do not desire to use THEIR student government resources to fund this sort of position and I think that is acceptable.

The student association is a quasi-public body - hence the name student government. It is responsible to all its members, including those who are presumably pro-life. Shutting out pro-life groups out of student government is a political exclusion that damages the traditional university values of free speech and debate, and we will comment on it, especially to point out how liberal and tolerant the student government actually is. What is the problem with that? Are we required to be tolerant enough to not point out their intolerance?
11.29.2006 7:20am
Milhouse (www):
The students have simply said that they do not desire to use THEIR student government resources

Where do those resources come from? Compulsory fees imposed on students? (That's how it is in Australia, anyway.)
11.29.2006 9:05am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> Where do those resources come from? Compulsory fees imposed on students? (That's how it is in Australia, anyway.)

They don't have to go to University. However, they will be taxed to support it whether they go or not.
11.29.2006 10:33am
davod (mail):
I would suggest that most student facilities are provided by the State, especially in Canada. So the argument is to exclude someone from using State funded facilities controlled by the Student Government.
11.29.2006 11:08am
Russ (mail):
When conservatives want to ban something, it's censorship. When liberals want to ban something, it's tolerance.

Newsflash - it's wrong in both cases, especially when it involves a public university.

Woodstock, you can use all the deflection you want, but it is about banning a group with which they disagree. I find it amazing that they are so insecure in their views that they cannot withstand debate.

This comes back to the basic difference between conservatives and liberals, even more pronounced now - conservatives think liberals are stupid, while liberals think conservatives are morally flawed, and that gives them the right to silence those conservatives.
11.29.2006 11:18am
Woodstock (mail) (www):
First of all I don't agree with the principle of censoring opinions. But I do think that it is within their right to democratically decide that they don't want the debate going on on CUSA property using CUSA funding. Once CUSA, or any student organization, is given discretionary money or oversight of resources by the school administration, it is their right to use those resources however they please. Just because it came from a public source doesn't mean that they can't use it how they want. To argue otherwise seems to be equivalent to saying that you can only use your government tax refund for certain purposes. Or to say that vouchers shouldn't go to religous schools because it would be public funding of religion. No, the source of the money, in this case resources more generally, is disconnected from the use of that money, which is at the student's discretion.

In my opinion, this might not be censorship in the general sense. In a way, even though they probably are mostly pro-choice, these students are just saying that they do not want the debate to take place on their property. It could be any debate that they don't want on their property: the Iraq War for example. Though some of the quotes clearly indicate they are taking a side, it is not necessary to pick a side to reach the same conclusion. Free speech is great, but there are places that are more appropriate than others. You wouldn't expect Congress to allow protesters of any issue, regardless of side taken, to assemble inside the Capitol building.
11.29.2006 12:59pm
SeaLawyer:
Think about the message that they want to ban. "It is wrong to murder babies." That is such an offensive position.
11.29.2006 1:07pm
Woodstock (mail) (www):
Just to clarify, it would be egregious censorship if the ADMINISTRATION of the school said that no university property could be used. The school as a whole is beholden to all students.

But then again, maybe I am just basing my opinion on how my college worked...at my college the administration was responsible for recognizing groups. If this university operates differently, and the only source of resources for any group is through this CUSA council, then perhaps the Lifeline group does have a case.
11.29.2006 1:15pm
Woodstock (mail) (www):
The other question I would pose about the public funding is this (and I actually don't know the answer): if this is DIRECT public funding as some of you argue, should public funding be used to fund groups that are attacking citizens' rights as codified by Canadian law? Whether you agree with the law is a different question, but by analogy, say the government directly funded a group in the U.S. that said that blacks should not have the right to vote. Maybe some people would agree with that position, but it doesn't mean the government should fund it.

There are always private sources of funding that these groups can use.
11.29.2006 1:30pm
AndersK (mail):
The other question I would pose about the public funding is this (and I actually don't know the answer): if this is DIRECT public funding as some of you
argue, should public funding be used to fund groups that are attacking citizens' rights as codified by Canadian law? Whether you agree with the law is
a different question, but by analogy, say the government directly funded a group in the U.S. that said that blacks should not have the right to vote. Maybe
some people would agree with that position, but it doesn't mean the government should fund it.

Under this theory free speech neutrality in government funding would be a dead letter, since it would thereby be impossible to argue against government policy when the source of the funding was the sovereign.
Of course, the government may hire private speakers to communicate the official orthodoxy and may ipsofacto favor one viewpoint over another .-- by funding family planning with an antiabortion message.



However, that's a far cry from arguing that that a quasi official body vested with governmental authority should have the power to exclude one particular viewpoint because it, if enacted, would contravene current judicial interpretation of statutory or constitutional law.
If Congress passes a tort reform package, would it then be tenable to deny public funding to viewpoins in opposition to the rights hereinafter secured to corporations?


First of all I don't agree with the principle of censoring opinions. But I do think that it is within their right to democratically decide that they don't
want the debate going on on CUSA property using CUSA funding. Once CUSA, or any student organization, is given discretionary money or oversight of resources
by the school administration, it is their right to use those resources however they please. Just because it came from a public source doesn't mean that
they can't use it how they want. To argue otherwise seems to be equivalent to saying that you can only use your government tax refund for certain purposes.
Or to say that vouchers shouldn't go to religous schools because it would be public funding of religion. No, the source of the money, in this case resources
more generally, is disconnected from the use of that money, which is at the student's discretion.

I think the analogy most on point isn't vouchers but school prayer and racial segregation.
If the use of money collected by an elected student body, but under the supervisionof the university, implicates no free speech concern, the same argument would cut in support of allowing a democratic majority to limit the platform for public expression of viewpoints to one race, or denying funding to disfavored religious minorities.
11.29.2006 2:22pm
SeaLawyer:

should public funding be used to fund groups that are attacking citizens' rights as codified by Canadian law? Whether you agree with the law is
a different question, but by analogy, say the government directly funded a group in the U.S. that said that blacks should not have the right to vote. Maybe
some people would agree with that position, but it doesn't mean the government should fund it.


The issue is that the groups are not attacking anyone's rights or trying to limit them. They are actually fighting for the rights of the humans that have not yet been born. I believe that is a big difference.
11.29.2006 2:34pm
Kevin P. (mail):
Woodstock:

Once CUSA, or any student organization, is given discretionary money or oversight of resources by the school administration, it is their right to use those resources however they please. Just because it came from a public source doesn't mean that they can't use it how they want. To argue otherwise seems to be equivalent to saying that you can only use your government tax refund for certain purposes.


This is a bad analogy. Your tax refund is a refund of your own money, money that you previously (over)paid to the government during the tax year, and is now being returned to you.

I doubt very much that CUSA is any kind of business that actually generates its own revenue. It is receiving public funds or compulsory dues from students. Such funds can come with all kinds of strings attached. CUSA can't just spend or not spend it as it pleases.


...if this is DIRECT public funding as some of you argue, should public funding be used to fund groups that are attacking citizens' rights as codified by Canadian law?


"Attacking citizens' rights" is a matter of perspective. One could equally argue, and the pro-life cause in fact does argue that it is not attacking women who choose to have abortions, but rather trying to protect the lives (and rights) of unborn citizens. So CUSA is picking a political side, and is supporting it with government money.
11.29.2006 2:47pm
AndersK (mail):
logicnazi wrote

Hmm, while my initial reaction is the same as everyone Else's after more thought I think these people might have a plausible case if racist or other groups
advocating bad things are discriminated against/denied space.

I mean if it is justified to ban groups that openly advocate for racial separation or hold demonstrations arguing that blacks are inferior and ought not
to be allowed to go to school what makes abortion so different? Presumably the reason one bans pro-racist groups is that you think that the policies they
support are extremely harmful and even the advocacy of these policies causes distress and tension. Yet if you believe (as many people reasonably do) that
not only are bans on abortion extremely harmful and discriminatory but that advocacy creates distress and tension then what reason for the distinction?

There is no obvious reason, and as a matter of law advocating racial segregation is political speech entitled to the highest degree of constitutional protection.

But abortion might be more complex, where the disagreement doesn't turn on the core right to abortion (traditionally justified by the needs of women to avoid poverty and health complications)
but rather on regulation of late trimester abortions, or particular procedures employed by the responsible physician.
You might for example believe that a woman has the right to abort a fetus in the first trimester, but as the gestation progresses the right of the mother should give way to the right of the unborn.
After all, only regulations of abortion imposing an undue burden on the mother are technically unlawful, so how would you draw a principle distinction between different forms of advocacy against abortion?
Now, you may believe that all abortions should be legal, and that all regulations even those not found unconstitutional (or likely to be found unconstitutional under current caselaw) are tantamount to advocacy supporting racial discrimination. But if that's your default position, most state legislatures having passed laws against partial abortion, and at least four justices on the Supreme Court cut in the other direction.
There is simply not the same consensus on abortion as on the repugnancy of racial segregation.
11.29.2006 2:54pm
Woodstock (mail) (www):
When I said "attacking citizen's rights" I wasn't refering to inherent rights. I was referring to rights under the law. While it is reasonable to believe the unborn have inherent rights, they aren't legally recognized, and therefore when discussing such an issue where two sets of rights are mutually exclusive, the legal question of attacking rights must cut in favor of those rights that are recognized (since both cannot be true at the same time)
11.29.2006 6:45pm
AndersK (mail):
When I said "attacking citizen's rights" I wasn't refering to inherent rights. I was referring to rights under the law. While it is reasonable to believe
the unborn have inherent rights, they aren't legally recognized, and therefore when discussing such an issue where two sets of rights are mutually exclusive,
the legal question of attacking rights must cut in favor of those rights that are recognized (since both cannot be true at the same time)

So when owning a slave was recognized by the Supreme Court to implicate the right of property in Dred Scott, and Negroes weren't persons with constitutional rights, your reasoning would mean that the "inherent rights" of slave owners would have to trump the right of those "attacking" the legally recognized rights of citizens?
11.29.2006 7:56pm
Woodstock (mail) (www):
I mean that during that period, it would be understandable for government to restrict GOVERNMENT funding to those who wanted to protest slavery on GOVERNMENT property. Even though there is an argument for inherent rights in both cases, the law is the law is the law, and it is therefore reasonable to argue that the debate for such issues should not be on publicly-controlled property funded by government dollars, but rather on private property, funded by private dollars.

It is not about which argument trumps the other. It is about where the debate is taking place and what the law is. Not saying this is a good thing...in fact it may be another argument for fewer publicly-funded schools.
11.29.2006 8:13pm
Woodstock (mail) (www):

This is a bad analogy. Your tax refund is a refund of your own money, money that you previously (over)paid to the government during the tax year, and is now being returned to you.


Government doesn't get money from other sources, so all government funding for any purpose is technically your own money being returned to you. The question is: is the money considered discretionary when it is allocated, or is it allocated for a specific purpose. Thus my use of the voucher analogy. Voucher money can be used for any education purpose without violating such principles as separation of church and state because there is an autonomous decision-maker in between the government and where the funding ends up: the parent.

If you consider CUSA to be an autonomous decision-maker, and the money to be allocated for their discretionary use, then there is an argument for such entities being able to fund what they want without regard to what would be legal for a government entity to do directly.
11.29.2006 8:21pm
AndersK (mail):
Government doesn't get money from other sources, so all government funding for any purpose is technically your own money being returned to you. The question
is: is the money considered discretionary when it is allocated, or is it allocated for a specific purpose. Thus my use of the voucher analogy. Voucher
money can be used for any education purpose without violating such principles as separation of church and state because there is an autonomous decision-maker
in between the government and where the funding ends up: the parent.

If the autonomous decision maker is




I think you are wrong as a matter of theory. Even a quasi independent body only vested with limited responsibility over a single subject matter is still subject to the strictures of government when exercising its power -- like a school board consisting of individuals deciding to encourage prayer in the classroom.

Were it not so, the state could privatize racial segregation by enforcing a facially neutral policy of dispersing funds to private organizations who in turn would continue racially segregated schools for public money.
The crucial distinction between school vouchers allowing individual choice - where some parents might decide to send their children to religious schools -- and the policy of an official body is precisely the lack of choice for the minority parents whose viewpoints become marginalized in the political process.
11.29.2006 11:05pm
Jack Faber:
The CUSA presumably financially supports many student organizations and clubs. They quite possibly support some student religious organizations.

They are now requiring all organizations to be in favour of legal abortion. Many religious student organizations and clubs would oppose this on theological grounds. A few would not.

Since this could effectively cut off funding to many religious student organizations, would it be illegal under Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? As I understand it, Canadian law has taken a very broad view of what constituents a law or regulation, that although not explicitly worded to discriminate, does so by effect.
11.29.2006 11:09pm
Friedrich Foresight:

"... I remain convinced that the only coherent approach to the so-called 'state action' problem is to hold that whenever the state has helped to enforce an act of discrimination, there is sufficient 'state action' to activate the Constitution, but then go on to ask... whether in doing so the relevant state body was motivated by an intention to facilitate discrimination, or simply pursuing a general policy of vindicating private choices. The question, in other words -- again, supposing we remain unwilling to impose on the state an affirmative duty to prevent discrimination -- is whether the discriminatory motive was the state's or that of some private party acting pursuant to the state's permission."


- John Hart Ely, On Constitutional Ground (NJ, Princeton UP, 1996), p 278.
11.30.2006 1:25am
Woodstock (mail) (www):

Even a quasi independent body only vested with limited responsibility over a single subject matter is still subject to the strictures of government when exercising its power


Okay so I actually do agree that CUSA is subject to the strictures of government...that still doesn't mean it has to permit a debate about abortion rights. It can't deny rights to speech, but it doesn't seem illegal or unreasonable for them to say that they won't provide a forum. Does government have to provide a forum for every issue? It seems that the important thing is that the policy isn't biased, if it permits debate on one side, it must permit debate on the other. Since abortion is legal, it just happens that there wasn't any debate from the pro-choicers.

I don't really see this as a religious issue. I do doubt that we would be having this debate if it were about censoring a KKK organization on a college campus. Would you say a KKK organization is legally entitled to equal access to university resources? Both are cases where basic government-recognized human rights are being protested against. Both are cases where you could argue that you don't want the debate taking place in a student environment where a lot of people could be offended (though the debate can obviously happen elsewhere). And yet I think most people would find a legal argument for why KKK rallies are not allowed on student property. If the reasoning is that one issue is more "up in the air" and the other has more consensus, that is not really a legally-defensible argument.
11.30.2006 1:48am
Friedrich Foresight:
> "Would you say a KKK organization is legally entitled to equal access to university resources?"

No, the KKK is not, because racism is not a good faith attempt to maximise the equal rights of all human beings (see my earlier post). But suppose it was some other pretty unpalatable but non-racist group - LaRoucheans, say, or extreme nativists who support zero immigration (on non-racist grounds). One safeguard would be to require that they meet some small but substantial quorum of membership among the student body before they can use University or student govt facilities. I doubt you would get 25 KKK members at a Canadian university. You would certainly get 25 students or staff who are anti-abortion, even at a Canadian university. Using numbers as a proxy for "respectability of views" is one relatively neutral way of settling the question, provided the ruling majority doesn't use its numbers to squash attempts by rival groups to meet the quorum.
11.30.2006 2:17am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"No, the KKK is not, because racism is not a good faith attempt to maximise the equal rights of all human beings (see my earlier post). But suppose it was some other pretty unpalatable but non-racist group… "

Freedom of speech has nothing to do with maximizing the equal rights of all human beings. The problem with giving the KKK a forum is that it's likely to lead to a violent confrontation. But I suppose if you put them and the audience in separate cages it might work. You should get exposed to challenging ideas when you go to college, and that includes what people call "racist" ideas, especially these days when people fling around the term "racist" with such abandon.

One safeguard would be to require that they meet some small but substantial quorum of membership among the student body before they can use University or student govt facilities.

Safeguard against what? Why should a facility that would otherwise be available be off limits to a minority? Suppose three guys want to hold a meeting and talk about white supremacy at a time when a facility is available. Why should they be denied access?
11.30.2006 2:45am
AndersK (mail):
Okay so I actually do agree that CUSA is subject to the strictures of government...that still doesn't mean it has to permit a debate about abortion rights.
It can't deny rights to speech, but it doesn't seem illegal or unreasonable for them to say that they won't provide a forum. Does government have to provide
a forum for every issue?

Certainly not, and I am only arguing that such a policy would be inconsistent with my own free speech doctrine -- an interpretation also endorsed by, most if not all serving justices on the US Supreme Court.
Canada is different in that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms actually leaves the government leeway in suppressing advocacy of certain viewpoint under the broad justification of human rights.
So even if such a policy would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment, which I am sure it would be, Canadian courts wouldn't probably have much trouble in upholding such a policy against anti abortion advocacy as necessary for the protection of the rights of others -- namely the elusive right of women not to be confronted with the possibility that a once recognized right later may be taken away by citizens petitioning their government.
The argument that once a right is legally recognized, speech challenging its moral foundation, may be somewhat disfavored by the state, even when framing the issue as narrow as the distinction between access to government spaces and public funding, is affront to the core right of citizens to petition their government for redress of grievances.
If citizens are dissatisfied with current abortion law (not a statute legalizing the practice but the judicial interpretation of a constitutional provision) why should the fact that abortion is legally recognized by five justices on the Supreme Court reduce advocacy in opposition to the right to low value speech?



It seems that the important thing is that the policy isn't biased, if it permits debate on one side, it must permit debate on
the other. Since abortion is legal, it just happens that there wasn't any debate from the pro-choicers.

Agreed, but that wasn't the justification. The explanation was that advocacy against abortion would make women feel uncomfortable.



I don't really see this as a religious issue. I do doubt that we would be having this debate if it were about censoring a KKK organization on a college
campus. Would you say a KKK organization is legally entitled to equal access to university resources? Both are cases where basic government-recognized
human rights are being protested against. Both are cases where you could argue that you don't want the debate taking place in a student environment where
a lot of people could be offended (though the debate can obviously happen elsewhere). And yet I think most people would find a legal argument for why KKK
rallies are not allowed on student property.

The problem wouldn't be denying the KKK a platform, the problem would arise if the policy either facially or as applied discriminated against the Klan based on its racist positions.
That's simply never tolerable, not because of the particular weight of the countervailing human right at issue, whether equal protection of minorities or the privacy right of women, but rather because of the First Amendment mandating that the government only abridges speech in a viewpoint neutral fashion.
11.30.2006 5:15am
Friedrich Foresight:
> "Safeguard against what? Why should a facility that would otherwise be available be off limits to a minority?"

A safeguard against the perceived problem of over-stretching limited resources. It's one thing to say "The Student Council doesn't have to allow free use of its meeting rooms, photocopiers, notice boards, etc, to a mere three people (who could just as easily hold their meeting in the quadrangle, and circularise their members by a phone ring-around) when there are other groups with 50 or 100 members who miss out as a result." It's a different matter entirely to say that "Only causes approved by the incumbent Student Council governing faction may use SC resources".
11.30.2006 5:33pm
Canbuhay (mail):
This is great reading debate about what's happening at Carleton from an American perspective.

There's a few points I think need to be clarified - and as the one who participated in the abortion debate at Carleton (which also happens to be my alma mater) that started all this mess, I think I have some insights you might not know):

First, all universities here, except for a few small religious or Bible colleges, are semi-private. They all get gov't (both provincial and federal) money but they aren't directly under the gov't. In other words, their funding still comes from us Canadian taxpayers.

Secondly, this whole contoversy started because Carleton Lifeline held a debate. It was a debate with both sides represented and where both sides got equal time to make their case. In other words, because of a debate that made some people uncomfortable, CUSA wants to ban the pro-life club from CUSA space. And that does violate those students' charter rights.

Moreover, CUSA membership is compulsory as are the fees students have to pay to it - it is a gov't body after all.

Does that mean they have to provide funding for pro-life groups? Technically, all campus groups have to apply for funding (which we have gotten in the past when I was president of the club) and so no funds are automatic. Funding is allocated depending on the project or event being planned. If passed, this means Lifeline couldn't even apply.

CUSA space also includes use of the university centre and other venues on campus that are open to every other organization or campus club.

The problem with banning the pro-life club on the grounds that they are discriminatory is the fact that this is what the debate is all about: is abortion a fundamental human right or does it take away fundamental human rights (ie the right to life). Only when you presume the first position is true, can you declare pro-life groups discriminatory.

Pro-life groups however don't hold that position to be true and hold the latter to be true. So from our perspective, it is abortion-choice advocates who are violating human rights.

And that's the point of a debate. That's why I debated for the pro-life side. To say our views should be banned because others call us discriminatory, without proving reasons why, presumes were guilty. This is not the case with racists groups which are prima facie discriminatory.
11.30.2006 8:59pm