WATERLOO, Ontario, March 15, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The University of Waterloo has rebuked the group of pro-abortion protesters who shouted down a talk by a Canadian MP on Wednesday.
Pro-life MP Stephen Woodworth got through one-third of his talk at the Waterloo Students for Life event before the protesters occupied his podium. Even though the space was booked properly, campus security refused to intervene on the grounds that the protesters had an equal right to free speech, say the organizers.
But in a statement to LifeSiteNews.com on Thursday night, the university rebuked the protest as an effort to silence Woodworth.
"The University of Waterloo believes that ideas should be shared in an environment of tolerance and respect and that individuals have the right to advance their views openly,” a spokesperson said. “Unfortunately that didn’t happen yesterday and Mr Woodworth was unable to finish his remarks. The silencing of anyone who proffers an opinion is unacceptable to this institution."
“The university will work with the Waterloo Students For Life to ensure that Mr Woodworth can share his views in a safe and productive environment if they wish to invite him to speak again,” the university added.
Ellen Rethore, the university’s associate vice-president of communications and public affairs, told the National Post that its secretariat, police, and student success office were undertaking a joint investigation of the incident.
Rebecca Richmond, executive director of the National Campus Life Network, said they were “pleased” the university recognized the silencing of Woodworth was unacceptable, but urged them to take “appropriate action.”
“The University administration must work with the club to improve policies and procedures to ensure that this incident, with Mr. Woodworth or any other speaker, will not be repeated,” she said.
Woodworth himself told LifeSiteNews that he did not consider the university responsible, but still that it would be a "credit" to them if they could bar such demonstrations.
"I don't hold the University of Waterloo responsible for the actions of a tiny minority of extremists whose single-issue preoccupation with abortion causes them to disregard democratic values such as freedom of speech, respectful dialogue, and the recognition of the equal worth and dignity of every human being," he said.
"It would be a credit to university officials if they were able to bar from the university, or in some other reasonable way deter, the professor and students who demonstrated their opposition to these essential democratic ideals in this highly undemocratic fashion, but I can understand the challenges of doing so and I will leave that to them, as they are highly capable in such matters."
Woodworth, a Conservative MP for the Kitchener Centre riding, brought forward Motion 312 at the House of Commons last year, calling for a re-examination of the 400 year-old definition of a human being in section 223(1) of Canada’s Criminal Code. His presentation on Wednesday was to address that topic as well as to take questions from the audience.
Woodworth told LifeSiteNews on Thursday that the protesters’ actions suggest “they may consider the philosophy of hatred and disrespect for others to be a virtue, rather than the self-limiting prison it really is.”
Among the most rambunctious protesters was Ethan Jackson, a 21-year-old student from nearby Wilfrid Laurier University, who came dressed as female genitalia. According to the National Post, he has named the costume “Vulveta”.
In a video of the incident, he can be heard shouting at Woodworth: “Who do you think you are trying to impose your bigotry, your views on society through your Christian monotheistic faith?”
In an interview later, he said the protestors deemed Woodworth’s views “unacceptable.”
“That kind of speech, that kind of facts, are not acceptable,” he explained. “We decided to go by the route of using satire instead of intimidation…We decided to make Stephen Woodworth feel as uncomfortable as he makes us feel.”
Another protester declared to Woodworth that the crowd was “refusing to let you further devalue the anatomical jewel.”
“We are the defenders of the c—. You are threatening the freedom of all c—s while disseminating anti-c— misinformation in institutions that require academic integrity,” she said.
Video of the protest is available at the National Campus Life Network's website.
Feridun Hamdullahpur, President of the University of Waterloo