By Thaddeus M. Baklinski
MONTREAL, November 19, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The McGill student pro-life club Choose Life has had its campus rights suspended, but not revoked, by the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU).
SSMU Council voted 16 to 7 by secret ballot in favor of suspending Choose Life's club status.
Two separate motions were put forth to change the club's status. The first resolution called for the club's status to be revoked. After being defeated 11 to 12, a motion to suspend followed, according to the McGill Daily.
Suspending the pro-life group's club status means it can no longer use university property for club functions, will no longer receive student council funding and must meet with council executives to discuss the suspension. Revoking club status would mean legislating the club out of existence.
McGill student society president Ivan Neilson says the student council does not have a position on abortion, but Choose Life's actions were unacceptable.
“We've received several complaints from our students that they felt harassed, that they felt that their safety has come into question and that they felt personally attacked,” he told CBC News.
The McGill Daily said that the students who put forth the two motions claimed that Choose Life had disseminated false health information (the abortion/breast cancer (ABC) link that is denied by Health Canada) and exposed students to graphic images associated with abortion and fetal life.
Additionally, the students felt that past events hosted by the club had threatened safe space for students on campus, and violated SSMU policy.
This refers to the pro-life presentation, hosted by Choose Life McGill and given by the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform's Jose Ruba, which was shut down by extremist protesters who disrupted the event to the point where police were called to restore order and civility. Two protesters were arrested.
The motion to suspend the club's status incorporated a clause which would send the club for evaluation by the Equity Committee with the intention of developing “a document that would allow for the expression of a pro-life viewpoint while remaining in line with the SSMU constitution and equity policy.”
Choose Life McGill president Nathalie Fohl said she did not feel that the club had contravened McGill's equity policy, explaining that the club's mandate is to promote respect for human life and human rights from conception, defined as the moment of fertilization.
“The goal of our group is to promote the well-being of all persons, including those discriminated against based on age,” Fohl said.
After the SSMU vote, Fohl said she was disappointed with the hearing and the outcome. She felt her club had not been treated fairly throughout the whole process and that the club's right to free speech was being limited.
“It's really unfortunate that they see what we do, just promoting discussion on life issues, trying to provide information on child development and abortion and things like that, as breaking any SSMU procedures.”
“I really don't feel that if people properly understood what our position was that they would be saying what they said,” Fohl explained. “It sounds good to say, 'No, we're not limiting free speech,' but it really is saying, 'You say what you want but only this way.'”
Fohl stated she is willing to meet with the SSMU to work out a solution but wouldn't make any decisions without consulting the rest of the club.
“We will certainly sit down with the Equity Committee and see what their suggestions are but that doesn't mean that we are necessarily going to accept everything,” Fohl said.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
James Administration Building, Room 506
845 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec H3A 2T5
Executive Assistant to the Principal
Ms. Susy Ricciardelli
SSMU Council: https://ssmu.mcgill.ca
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