CALGARY, Alberta, April 7, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An Alberta court has ruled that University of Calgary officials violated the rights of pro-life students when they found members of Campus Pro-Life guilty in 2010 of “non-academic misconduct” for refusing to turn the signs of a Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) display inwards so no one could see them.
The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench stated it was “unreasonable” for the Board of Governors of the University of Calgary to refuse to hear and fully consider the appeal of the seven students found guilty of non-academic misconduct for having set up the pro-life display on campus.
“The Court has ordered the University’s Board of Governors to hear the students’ appeal and give it proper consideration. We are happy with this outcome,” said lawyer John Carpay, who acted on behalf of the pro-life students and serves as president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, in a press release.
“However,” he added, “the legal issues are not yet fully settled.”
“We feel vindicated by this Court decision. We should not have been found guilty of non-academic misconduct just for expressing our views on campus,” said Cameron Wilson, past president of Campus Pro-Life and a second-year student when he was charged in 2010.
Since 2006, members of Campus Pro-Life have set up the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) twice a year on the university campus. In 2006 and 2007, the University of Calgary posted its own signs near the display, stating that this expression was protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
However, in March of 2008, the university began demanding that the students set up their display with the signs facing inwards, to hide the signs entirely from the view of people passing by. The students continued to set up their display with signs facing outwards, as they had been allowed to do in previous years.
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In 2010, the university charged the pro-life students with non-academic misconduct for having continued to set up their display with signs facing outwards, and found them guilty.
The students appealed the decision to university administration, but in January of 2011, the Board of Governors upheld the verdict of guilty by refusing to convene the Student Discipline Appeal Committee to hear and fully consider the students’ appeal.
Campus Pro-Life submitted their case to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench with the goal of having the Board of Governors' decision overturned.
The Court rendered its decision in the case of Wilson v. University of Calgary on April 1, 2014.
Carpay pointed out that the court noted the pro-life students faced the possibility of expulsion from the university, and that the university characterized the students’ refusal to turn their signs inwards as an offence on par with other Major Violations such as theft, property damage, misuse of firearms, and sexual assault.
According to the court, the Board of Governors' decision failed to address many of the arguments that the students had put forward, such as their right to free expression under the Charter, their free expression rights under contract, and administrative law arguments.
The court held that the university failed to demonstrate that it took into account the nature and purpose of a university as a forum for the expression of differing views.
M. Elizabeth Cannon, President, University of Calgary
University of Calgary Administration Building, Room A100
2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, AB T2N 1N4
Fax: (403) 289-6800