Banned pro-life club sues Ontario university
OTTAWA, Ontario, February 23, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Carleton Lifeline, the pro-life club at Carleton University, announced Wednesday morning that they are suing the University and its administration for discriminatory treatment over the 2010-2011 academic school year.
“We believe that the behaviour of the University is actionable. We have suffered discrimination and intimidation, we have been arrested and threatened and we are seeking restitution,” said Ruth Lobo, President of Carleton Lifeline. “The University’s discriminatory actions are shocking, to say the least. We want to ensure, through law, that this behaviour is not repeated at Carleton University ever again.”
The club is asking that they be allowed to “openly promote their beliefs on campus” pursuant to university policies respecting freedom of expression, academic freedom, and discrimination. They’ve also asked for $200,000 plus costs for punitive damages, wrongful arrest, damage to reputation, and breach of contract.
The suit names Carleton University, University President Dr. Roseann O’Reilly Runte, Director of Housing and Conference Services David Sterritt, Director of Student Affairs Ryan Flannagan, and Director of Safety Allan Burns.
Lobo was arrested along with three other Carleton students on October 4th as they attempted to erect the Genocide Awareness Project, which uses large billboards of graphic images to compare abortion to past atrocities. On October 27th, the students were threatened after holding an event called the “Choice Chain”, where the students stood along a campus sidewalk holding similar poster-sized images.
Carleton University proposed an “agreement” in November that would have seen the club’s activities placed under special limitations not demanded of other student groups. The university proposed to set up a designated “zone” on campus where the students could stand with their signs, dictating that they must cover their posters when traveling to and from this zone. But the students maintained that this area receives little traffic in the winter.
“Carleton University has allowed other exhibits using graphic images on campus,” commented Albertos Polizogopoulos, Carleton Lifeline’s lawyer. “Clearly the University opposes Lifeline’s message and not its medium. This is censorship and viewpoint discrimination and it violates Carleton University’s internal policies.”
The university has allowed graphic images of the Holocaust to be displayed, as well as photos of brutalized baby seals - in each case without warning signs or restricted areas.
Carleton Lifeline has also been decertified by the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA), a decision they are challenging in court.
Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America said her group stands behind the pro-life club in the lawsuit. “The discrimination and persecution they have faced for their pro-life beliefs is unbelievable,” she said. “Carleton Lifeline has been heroic in their courage in the face of this discrimination and has lead the way in exposing the disgusting hypocrisy of their Administration.”
Rebecca Richmond, executive director of Canada’s National Campus Life Network, of which Carleton Lifeline is a member, said, “The treatment that Carleton Lifeline has received from their university administration has been unjust and the club members deserve restitution. We hope that this lawsuit will send a clear message to universities across Canada that discriminating against pro-life clubs is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
For more information about Carleton Lifeline and their statement of claim, visit their website here.