PETERBOROUGH, Ontario, February 7, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) - Students applying to form a pro-life club at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, were rejected by the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) last week on grounds that such a club would be "exclusive."
Now Trent Lifeline says it has secured legal counsel, and is demanding that the TCSA reverse its decision and grant Trent Lifeline club status or face commencement of legal proceedings.
Trent Lifeline says the group received an email from Vanessa Jones, the TCSA Club & Group Coordinator, informing the pro-lifers that “campaigning for pro life or pro choice is not allowed on campus as well [sic] since there is [sic] so many opinions to this it can lead to a very exclusive group, while all clubs at Trent University must be inclusive.”
“The purpose of Trent Lifeline is to engage with the student body regardless of what someone’s position is on abortion,” responded Heather Anne Robertson, President of Trent Lifeline. “Anyone can bring their ideas and opinions to the discussion. To exclude us in the name of being inclusive is absurd.”
After requesting more information on the policies upon which the TCSA decision was based, Lifeline says it was informed by Ms. Jones that a policy could not be sent “as there is one working under way [sic].”
"On campus we are not allow [sic] to have groups that take away rights or opinions of other people," Jones reportedly wrote.
"The appeal process is you may request a formal appeal," she added. "We then you will met [sic] with myself [sic], the vp [sic], and possibly student affairs and advocacy. You will be able to state why you should feel like you should get club status we will present out [sic] opinion and then we will have a review session."
A letter from Trent Lifeline’s legal counsel, John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, was sent to the president of the TCSA on February 6th.
The letter calls for a reversal of the decision to reject Lifeline’s application. Carpay argued that for the TCSA to penalize a club due to the content of the group's philosophy or beliefs constitutes illegal censorship and illegal discrimination.
Carpay also claimed that when Ms. Jones stated, "I cannot send you a policy right now as there is one working under way," she and the TCSA were not operating from the principle of "good faith."
"Devising a policy for the express purpose of using it to discriminate against Trent Lifeline is illegal because it violates the principles of administrative law to which TCSA is required to adhere," Carpay wrote to the student association. He pointed to the case of Mowat v. University of Saskatchewan Student Union where the court ruled that USSU did not act in good faith when it amended its rules in order to favour a desired outcome.
“We hope that the student union will reverse its decision, thereby removing the need for court action," Carpay concluded. "However, if necessary, we will seek a Court Order to uphold the free speech rights and freedom of association rights of these students.”
Rebecca Richmond, Executive Director of the National Campus Life Network, an organization that exists to support pro-life students in Canada, said, “The student association is supposed to serve its members and not selectively exclude one group of them who take a position on a controversial human rights issue.
“The fact that the TCSA may be re-writing its policies to justify its discrimination against this club is also disconcerting,” Richmond observed.
Heather Anne Robertson, President of Trent Lifeline,
Brea Hutchinson, President of Trent Central Student Association
Dr. Steven E. Franklin, President & Vice-Chancellor, Trent University
Phone: (705) 748-1090
Fax: (705) 748-1657
Email via Executive Assistant Brenda Blackburn: firstname.lastname@example.org