Action Item: Email or Phone the President of U of C



November 19, 2008

University of Calgary Once Again Attempting to Censor Campus Pro-Life Club

gap displayBy Thaddeus M. Baklinski

CALGARY, Alberta, November 19, 2008 ( – The U of C is again attempting to censor student members of the campus pro-life club by threatening them with arrest and sanctions for non-academic misconduct (including the possibility of suspension and expulsion) if they do not comply with an order to turn Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) displays inward. GAP is a graphic exhibit which includes photographs of unborn babies who have been aborted.

U of C lawyer Paul Beke addressed a letter to pro-life club members which said, “The university has the right to control what people do on its private property,” and stated that the university wants the display set up so “passersby could avoid the displays if they were to wish.”

University officials have also told the Calgary Police that the GAP display poses a threat of violence.

An editorial in the Calgary Herald yesterday, however, said that “the only violence here is that being done to the principles of free speech.” (See “No good reason to squelch this debate”…)

Stephanie Gray of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, commenting on the university’s attempt to censor the pro-life club said, “There is an important principle of free expression on campus at stake here. Universities should not be allowed to censor controversial, unpopular or minority viewpoints. If the University of Calgary can censor GAP (on the basis of anonymous complaints from people claiming to be offended), this will have direct implications and consequences for all persons on university campuses throughout Canada (not to mention the state of free expression off-campus).”

“Can you imagine them making this demand (turning the displays inwards) of animal rights activists or those who protest the genocide in Darfur?” Gray asked.

The U of C has in the past shown a lack of consistency in its response to previous GAP displays by the Campus Pro-Life (CPL) club.

Earlier this year the university threatened to enforce a “notice to vacate” the premises if the GAP displays were not turned inward. Instead of following through with that ultimatum, however, the university instead chose to erect a sign which said, “WARNING Campus Pro-Life has erected a display on University grounds without the permission or endorsement of the University of Calgary …  Students, faculty and staff are cautioned that the images are extremely graphic.”

Members of the pro-life club, however, pointed out that this unwittingly emphasized the GAP message that abortion, when confronted for what it is, is a deeply disturbing reality that involves more than a mere “blob of tissue.”

Two years ago the university administration posted advisory signs around the perimeter of the display, stating, “The exhibit is protected under the relevant sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms related to Freedom of Expression.”

Campus Pro-Life Vice President Drew Brown stated at the time, “While the university may not share the view of CPL, their provision of security and protection of our fundamental freedoms sets an example for universities across the country. Several Canadian pro-life clubs have been denied their right to display GAP like CPL did yesterday. We commend the University for recognizing our Charter rights.”

In 2005 university officials, after attempting to ban the display from campus, set up checkpoints and roadblocks in the wake of a vandal who tried to destroy the Genocide Awareness Project pro-life display.

U of C student Joshua Nugent said, “It’s like a totalitarian regime in there. Ironically, driving onto campus is like crossing the border from a democratic country where we have free speech to a dictatorship which suppresses speech.”

The GAP display will take place on the U of C campus on November 26 and 27, 2008. For more information contact Leah Hallman, president of Campus Pro-Life at U of C, at [email protected], or via cell phone at 403-808-3412.

To contact the University of Calgary with your concern:

Dr. Harvey P. Weingarten, President
Administration Building, Room 100
University of Calgary
2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, AB T2N 1N4

Phone: (403) 220-5460
Fax: (403) 289-6800
Email: [email protected]

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