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Pro-life student makes stand against harassment, assaults on campus by filing human rights complaint

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TORONTO, February 20, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — A Ryerson student is fighting back against what she says is a strikingly high degree of harassment and violence against pro-life advocates at her university.

Talia Emanuel filed a discrimination complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal this month against Toronto’s Ryerson University, its two student unions, and two individuals.

The individuals “were employees of the student unions and we are not making their names public at this time,” Emanuel told LifeSiteNews in an email.

“I believe very strongly that injustice only grows when left hidden, that bullying only gets worse when left unaddressed,” added the 24-year-old student at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management.

“One of the realizations that lead me to filing the complaint was the thought that what happened to me can, and probably will, happen to other students if they are allowed to get away with it.”

In a Toronto Against Abortion video and press statement, Emanuel alleged she “has faced harassment and discrimination … simply because I share a minority belief on abortion, a pro-life belief.”

Moreover, students who publicly witness against abortion at Ryerson have “faced theft, property destruction, harassment, and assaults, often by students’ union employees or volunteers,” she contended.

“I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to file complaints with the Ryerson Student Conduct Office, with Ryerson Security and with the Toronto Police,” said Emanuel, who began her studies at the university in 2015.

Her human rights complaint concerns Emanuel’s attempts to attend events at Equity Service Centres, run jointly by Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and the Continuing Education Students Association of Ryerson (CESAR).

“Some of these Equity Service Center staff are the same people who have stolen from me, and assaulted my friends while we peacefully and legally share a pro-life message,” she told LifeSiteNews in an email.

When they recognized her, “I was told to leave immediately after entering” the Equity Service Center, Emanuel said.

A black woman with Type 1 diabetes, Emanuel claims that as a consequence of this discrimination she has “been denied equal access to services for female, racialized students, and for students with disabilities.”

Moreover, as a “survivor of rape, I have been denied equal access to students’ union services for victims of sexual violence,” she says in her video.

That has been “one of the most difficult parts of my healing journey,” added Emanuel.

“I met with Equity Service Centre staff, who told me that ‘even if there’s not going to be a discussion around that topic (abortion), that it’s still an unspoken conversation that’s really limiting people’s ability to express themselves,’” she told LifeSiteNews.

“I was told that my mere presence was difficult and triggering,” and “that other students felt unsafe by my being at these events,” Emanuel says in her video.

“This discrimination was especially cutting because it was coming from the very centres meant to combat the isolation marginalized students feel on campus.”

Hostility to pro-life advocates is “far more common” at Ryerson than other campuses “partly because the student unions have a project called the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective, which exists to silence pro-life speech on campus,” Emanuel alleged.

Indeed, Blaise Alleyne, Ryerson student and founder of Toronto Against Abortion, points to the RSU’s 2017 Annual General Meeting Report as evidence of Emanuel’s contention.

The AGM report notes that “the RSU has provided, funding and support to the RRJC for signage and support spaces for students.”

Emanuel says pro-lifers “have spoken to the president and provost of Ryerson University, but we’re unable to get meaningful help.”

A spokesperson for Ryerson’s Office of Public Affairs told LifeSiteNews the university “cannot provide comment as the matter is before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.”

LifeSiteNews contacted RSU president Maklane deWever and vice president of equity Karolina Surowiec for comment.

“Out of respect for the privacy of the complainant, the RSU will not comment on this matter that is currently before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario,” deWever wrote in an email to LifeSiteNews. “The RSU has submitted a response that you can obtain from the HRTO or from the complainant.”

Filing the human rights complaint “has been incredibly more difficult and challenging than I ever anticipated,” Emanuel told LifeSiteNews.

“I mean, I’m a student trying to balance full-time studies, and facing off against the teams of lawyers that my university and student unions have hired.”

Nevertheless, Emanuel is looking forward to the tribunal’s hearing the case on May 15.

“I’ve watched my friends violently attacked while peacefully and legally exercising their Charter rights to share their deeply held beliefs,” she told LifeSiteNews. “I’m fearful of what could happen as I seek justice, but I’m more concerned about what will happen if no one does.

“But I'm hopeful the majority of Canadians believe universities should be the kind of place where students can have civil conversations about their beliefs without fear of discrimination.”

Meanwhile, Ryerson students Gabby Skwarko and Kat Northern Lights Man are back in court later this week on criminal charges relating to violent incidents documented by Toronto Against Abortion, Alleyne told LifeSiteNews.

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