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Hallman and Campbell are heading to court Feb. 27.
Katy Anderson/the Gauntlet

Campus Pro-Life fallout continues

Three students charged with trespassing so far, more expected

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A recent move by the University of Calgary to charge three students with trespassing has generated headlines across the country.

Three members of Campus Pro-Life were served notice over the past week and a half, said club treasurer Alanna Campbell. Another three are expected to be charged shortly.

"Getting the call that the police showed up at the door was a little shocking," said the second-year student who's taking a double degree in biology and Spanish. "It had been a couple months, so we were kind of thinking they had backed down."

The charges stem from a display the club put on in November. Titled the Genocide Awareness Project, the large signs show graphic images of the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide alongside photos of abortions.

Due to complaints and the fear of violence-- the university cited a request from CPL last spring to provide "assistance to prevent an escalation of physical conflict"-- university administration called for the group to turn the display inwards.

After a lengthy discussion, six members of the group decided to go ahead with the display as intended, said club president Leah Hallman.

The university responded by placing security guards next to major walkways around the triangle of land between Science A and the Prairie Chicken, where the display was being held, and threatened the members with arrest, fines and/or non-academic misconduct.

The university declined an interview, but issued a news release Monday which stated the U of C "has attempted for several years to find a reasonable compromise with Campus Pro-Life that would give members of the university community the choice to view or not view the Genocide Awareness Project display."

Despite a relatively quiet showing on other campuses in North America, the display, in its seventh year on the Calgary campus, consistently causes quite a stir. In previous years, the display-- at the request of the Students' Union-- was held just off of campus property. It often attracted large crowds of counter-protesters from organized rallies put on by campus club Feminist Initiative to Recognize Equality, to large groups of offended onlookers.

"As soon as people know that it's about that time of year when the pro-life rallies occur, we get a definite spike of people needing peer support coming into our centre," said Women's Resource Centre executive director Stephanie Garrett, to the Gauntlet in 2007.

The Canadian Constitution Foundation has taken on the case pro bono and will represent CPL when they face off against the university in court Feb. 27.

Executive director and head lawyer for the case, John Carpay, said everybody agrees the display is offensive to some people, but stressed the issue is now freedom of expression.

"When one person's free speech is reduced or diminished, it reduces the free speech rights of all Canadians," said Carpay, an alumni of the U of C's law school.

Hallman said she's disappointed in the university.

"Growing up you have this very ideological view of the world, and of universities in particular, thinking they're places where you can engage in intellectual dialogue," said Hallman. "I guess my hopes have been shattered."

Campbell said that above all, she's alarmed it came down to group members being charged.

"That we would have to fight for our right to express what we believe on a university campus-- that's just really sad."

CPL could also have its official club status revoked by the SU next Tuesday, said SU vice-president of operations and finance Alex Judd.

"When they submitted their event proposal we told them, 'If you don't abide by the university's regulations, then the event is not approved and you will be faced with punishment," said Judd.

The SU Clubs Committee, CPL and their lawyers will meet publicly at 4 p.m. Tuesday in MacEwan Student Centre executive council chambers.

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Comments

BOO HOO!!! Look at those sad droopy eyes!- Campus Prolife made a conscience decision to break the rules. In fact this is exactly what they wanted. Publicity. That's why they did it.
I am happy to see them pay the consequences.
And now they cry a sad sad song about " free speech" They had the display set up - I saw it - they were not forbidden to set up the display.
They had the option to point the disturbing graphics inwards- They decided not to.
And John Carpy of the Canadian Constitution Foundation is just the strong arm for this radical right wing group backed by radical right wing organizations in the U.S.
Can you sat Rush Limbaugh??

I am truly amazed how a Canadian university can define what is suitable for public viewing. I live in the United States, near Windsor and I am able to view CBC. The material content in some of the broadcasted movies is absolutely obscene and deplorable. Yet, on a university campus, surrounded by mature adults, graphic pictures canít be displayed? It seems to me, it is the issue that is drawing the objections, not the pictures. It is a shame, then, when issues cannot be discussed on a university campus.

When you are warned that you are not allowed to have an event you should not go through with it. If another group on campus decided to come to show hardcore pornography or something else someone deemed offensive they would be in trouble. I seem to remember a few years back that there was an issue with this very paper showing an image of a girls nether bits. There was a huge fall out over that and I'm sure rules are now in place to prevent that.

I believe the University is on land owned by the University making it not public land. They can impose rules on their property. They didn't say that they couldn't have the event and engage in their discussions, they simply said they couldn't have the event and show images that may be disturbing to people. All of those TV shows you see that are so bad have a disclaimer and people have a choice to change the channel. They just wanted to give people a choice.

People did have a choice: they could walk around. The event was clearly marked and though it would be inconvenient, anyone who did not want to see those images could take the long way to where they were going.

Personally, I don't think the SU should pursue action against Campus Pro-Life. Couple reasons:

a. I think Campus Pro-Life is important for the continued membership and improvement of the feminist and Pro-Choice groups on campus, who are able to use the publicity from CPL's monstrously stupid displays to improve understanding of the opposite argument.

b. Similarly, and to echo Gibbs' comment: this is exactly what CPL wants. We're talking about attention whores of the fifth magnitude here. If the goal of the SU is indeed to minimize the influence of a club that promotes hateful speech and refuses to follow rules, they would have been much more effective by just ignoring the noisy fools.

My two.

People should make up custom sticky notes with the offending images and post them covertly all over campus.

Dissent! The secular leftist feminist elites just don't want students to think for themselves. It's censorship.

Again -this is not about free speech. Pro-life was not banned from setting up the display. CPL wants to make this argument. Whores of the media!

I don't believe this is a free speech issue here. The University gave the group the option of turning the display inwards, an option which was refused. The University also chose to allow the display to stay up, choosing to place a warning. If censorship really was abound, then arrests would have been made and the display taken down. Simply walking around the display wasn't really an option either as the images were very large. I believe Pro-Life on campus was given a very fair chance to avoid legal repercussions and chose not to for the sake of publicity. The signs themselves also were incredibly provocative in nature and seemed to be tailor-made to incite controversy and anger, something which was present in large amounts at the display in lieu of intelligent debate. I just feel it is unfortunate that the group has chosen to capitalize upon the consequences of their display and are trying to paint the University as some sort of dictatorial establishment.

Re: 2009-02-08 23:03:16 #8

> it is unfortunate that the group has chosen to capitalize upon the consequences of their display and are trying to paint the University as some sort of dictatorial establishment.

Age this.

#8 & #9

>> it is unfortunate that the group has chosen to capitalize upon the consequences of their display and are trying to paint the University as some sort of dictatorial establishment.

>Age this.


Yeah, signed.

Honestly, the University should have just surrounded the entire CPL display with a bunch of partition walls after they refused to comply. This: a. Prevents a media shitshow b. Respects the sympathies of people not wanting to see said-images c. Allows the bored people with time between classes to still argue with CPL about whatever point they're trying to prove (I lost track of it years ago) d. Doesn't really impinge upon anybody's free speech.

Overreacting SU and Administration is Overreacting.

Campus Pro-LIfe has quickly turned into an incredible joke of an SU Club. The reason why is because it really is not hard to see through their rhetoric and understand just how bottom-of-the-barrel they have become.

Under the guidance of Leah Hallman, the CPL have taken an approach to spreading awareness of the Pro-Life cause that accomplishes the complete opposite of what they are mandated to stand for. Under Hallman's guidance, the CPL has evolved into a group of helpless fanatics who employ shock-tactics to accomplish their goals.

If Leah Hallman and the rest of the Campus Pro-Life assembly really want to live up to the University of Calgary's own four community guiding statements to:

Promote free inquiry and debate
Act as a community of scholars
Lead and inspire societal development
Respect, Appreciate, and Encourage diversity

then perhaps the CPL should try holding an open-forum event that all U of C students. faculty, and alumni are invited to in order to facilitate rational and wholesome discourse that the issue of Abortion sorely requires. In my years at this post-secondary institution, I have never seen a single event of this nature advertised by the CPL - instead, they rely on shock tactics and media hype and spin during a completely laughable "project" in order to accomplish their goals.

If anything, the CPL is doing more harm than good. They are strangling the promotion of free inquiry and debate, they are fracturing our community of scholars, they are holding back the development of a rational society with their irrational tactics, and they are actively antagonizing those who are not conforming to their views on the Abortion issues - way to promote diversity, CPL.

The Campus Pro-Life has degenerated into a fledgling, overbearing, and poorly led Student's Union Club. They are using the guiding principles of this university to spin up rhetorical ammunition to get people on their side - the frantic media coverage isn't helping either.

The CPL is single-handedly making a mockery of the four guiding statements of the University of Calgary and are, quite frankly, a cancer that is rotting the U of C community. If they have their club status revoked, good riddance.

I went to the U of C in the 70's; when the University actually accepted and promoted freedom of expression. As an example, the student union invited and help fund bringing the Black Panthers onto Campus; a militant and very controversial organization.

The University and many students were disturbed with the invitation and funding. Fortunately the Student Union did not back down and the Panthers spoke at a meeting in Mac Hall attended by 2000 facilty and students. There were strong views on both sides, but the meeting went ahead.

Hearing from those you do not agree with is positive thing; it actually insures that Canada will continue to be the tolerant and great nation that we are.

I find it interesting that those opposing the Pro Life group are so intolerant that they cannot accept the views of others. Don't preach tolerance for others when you do not practice it yourself.

Some have indicated that group had an option to point the disturbing graphics inwards. Are we going turn inwards everything that we find disturbing - where would you like to start.

What would be said if the Panthers were "turned inwards" and forced to meet in an area away from the public; because it maybe disturbing to some. That would not be right.

Some say the pro life promotes hateful speech. Lets not use the word hate lightly; so as not to marginalize it when we really need to deal with it.

Some think Campus Pro-Life is important for the continued membership and improvement of the feminist and Pro-Choice groups on campus. Are the sisters so insecure and intolerant that they cannot accept someone else's view. I thought the womens movement had moved beyond that.

Lets insure that we do not lose are basic rights of freedom speech and expression; while at the same time dealing with those that are actually promoting hatred. Let the rest of speak freely.

Students of U of C stand up and be heard.


It is absolutely ridiculous that an institution must become authoritarian in order to protect liberal viewpoints, like pro-choice. It's a paradox, actually. Can't the university see that?

A. The university asked these students not to emit their message in a way that forced others on campus to see the message by virtue of placement. The students refused, and others on campus experienced mental anguish as a result of having no practical alternatives to receiving the message. Free speech rights are intended to enable attempts at communication, not to force messages onto anyone else's senses.

B. Confusing this group's purely emotional assertions with controversial statements based in observable facts and logically formulated arguments (e.g. global warming skepticism, nature of organic diversity, human rights violations in the Middle East, radical environmentalism, faith systems, etc.) threatens free speech. It becomes much more difficult to defend the value of that second group of political arguments when these students insist that well-reasoned and germanely evidenced arguments are of the same low value as their feelings. In other words, the the free speech movement needs solidarity with CPL as much as representative democracy needs solidarity with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Am I the only one who's truly embarrassed of the SU and the University of Calgary right now?! Someone wrote into the Calgary Herald a good point- no one's getting upset about the violent/sexist/objectifying terrible images up for sale at the poster sales in Mac Hall. But when it comes to a real life serious issue people want to suppress it. It's so obviously ridiculous!

The largest concern that seems to be voiced surrounding this entire spectacle is that the freedoms of speech and of expression are at risk of being placed in jeopardy by an altruistic University of Calgary administration. Back in late November of 2008, there was a media flurry across the country that was proclaiming that our freedoms were being impinged upon, and it is entirely unfortunate that most of the coverage that people really listened to were articles in so many papers and online sources that were merely opinions from columnists; columnists who, it should be mentioned, were not even on campus during the few short days that the Genocide Awareness Project was presented. Letters to the Editor followed extolling the importance of free speech in knee-jerk reaction without even taking the time to delve into the myriad of details that were washed away by punchy columnists who were quick to place blame. In short, there was an all-you-can-eat media buffet that mostly saw only one side of the story simply by virtue of the fact that they were outsiders.

The methodology of CPL has been, and still remains, the central facet of this entire situation. It is not that the U of C administration is making an attempt to stifle free speech. Rather, they are making an attempt to solve the concern with the methodology of Campus Pro-Life by requesting that they apply a small degree of sensitivity to an issue that requires careful, considered discourse from both sides of the debate. The opinion writers who wrote firey condemnations of the U of C forget to mention that they were not part of the large group of people that were subjected arbitrarily to a display of shocking graphic images.

I wonder how difficult it is for members of the Jewish Students' Hillel to be forced to walk by a very graphic photograph of Holocaust victims and a Nazi swastika every time they travel from Science Theatres to Mac Hall to Mackimmie?

There is no discretion, and instead of opting to take a different methodological approach the CPL continued to, as Post #14 so eloquently put it, force their message onto the senses of students, instructors, administrators, and anyone else who happened to walk by. Let's also not forget that it was during the later part of the Fall semester, when students are in weakened mental states from writing midterms, writing papers, conducting research, beginning to prepare for their final exams; all on top of maintaining their external commitments to family, friends, work, etc.

Campus Pro-Life opted to ignore the continued requests of the U of C and, as of this writing, their Club status has been revoked.

The free speech argument would be interesting.

Had the same images been used as an art installation without the hand-waving belligerents, there would be no question that the images would be sufficiently offensive to members of the public to warrant action from the facility operator to minimize mental trauma to the public.

Had the belligerents used their words to articulate their arguments without the images, there would be no question that they would be left alone as long as they didn't fall into hate speech.

In this case, it seems that a viable free speech argument would have to claim some kind of protection for the images that arises due to the combination of the images with the talking.

It's possible for these particular belligerents to claim that the images are necessary to their speech because they are incapable of articulating their arguments otherwise, deriving a protection or accommodation as a human right for those with physical, mental or developmental disabilities, but I've not yet heard that claim, and this claim could not be the default generally as there presumably exist many pro-life supporters who do not have disabilities.

It's also possible for the belligerents to claim that they are offering some form of critical commentary about the images (as artists and scholarssometimes do with potentially offensive art pieces), but the dozens of arguments that the belligerents' mothership makes in claimed relation to the images only refers to the images twice or so (and only tangentially to generically to recall Nazis, lynching and an abortion) in approximately 10,000 words of (mostly passable) argumentation. It is therefore abundantly clear that the belligerents' views are adequately expressible without the use of images at all, and that their views do not in a substantial critical way relate to the images.

So, having established that: a) the pro-life arguments that the belligerents were to articulate have been articulated without support from the images, and b) the belligerents' message is not substantially encapsulated in the images as evidenced by the mothership's several thousand word supporting treatise, I'm left with the conclusions that: a) the belligerents used the images primarily to be offensive and/or to draw attention, and/or b) the particular individuals involved at the U of C have some kind of cognitive impediment preventing them from adequately articulating their pro-life message without reference to large images reminding them of what Nazis, lynchings and abortions are. (If the belligerents explained in this manner their need to display the images, I'm sure that the campus community would be generally accommodating.)

Have I forgotten a substantial part of the belligerents' free speech argument somewhere?

So, CPL are either attention-whores or idiots? It's so clear now.

Freedom of speech does not give you the freedom to express yourself in whatever way you deem necessary. What if I felt the only way to fully express my distaste for CPL's display was to urinate on it right in front of everyone? Would I be entitled to do that because I felt it was necessary? You all better hope that's not the case, I can tell you that!

Let\'s commend Rob Breakenridge for defending Campus prolife free speech rights on the radio.

\"As soon as people know that it\'s about that time of year when the pro-life rallies occur, we get a definite spike of people needing peer support coming into our centre\"

Gee I wonder why. I\'d need therapy too after doing that to my child. Cue flame tirades from liberals, feminists and, ironically, so-called \"humanists\".

\"Everyone who supported slavery was free. Everyone who supports abortion was born. That\'s how oppression works.\"