University of British Columbia drops restrictions on pro-life display
VANCOUVER, B.C., March 11, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Last year, a graphic display set up by pro-life students at the University of British Columbia was obstructed by protesters, who covered the pro-life posters with large cloths and impeded discussions as university security and police stood by. So last Thursday, as UBC Lifeline prepared to set up this year’s display of the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), they were prepared for a large and raucous protest.
However, Ania Kasprzak, president of UBC Lifeline, told LifeSiteNews that Thursday’s event came off peacefully, with only about 30 protesters.
“We’re here with these pictures because we think that women deserve to see the choice that is being made when abortion is chosen, and these images show the injustice, convey exactly what is done to the unborn child,” said Kasprzak, a 4th year psychology major.
For the last decade GAP, which compares abortion to past atrocities through graphic images, has only been allowed on campus under condition that the students limit the number of their signs to four and turn them inwards. But the university dropped the restrictions this year after the club hired lawyer and free-speech advocate John Carpay.
In a Wednesday op-ed for the Vancouver Sun, Carpay warned that Thursday’s event would “test UBC’s commitment to free speech and to the rule of law.”
UBC also instituted a policy requiring protesters to stay 30 feet away. However, that policy came as little comfort given that last year the pro-abortion campus group, Students for Reproductive Choice, had signed an agreement stating they would stay 30 feet away. University representatives had allowed last year’s obstruction on the basis that the protesters blocking the display were not students, and so were not bound by the agreement.
Leading up to Thursday’s event, anti-GAP activists rallied 400 members through a Facebook page, and one commenter had called on non-students to again block the display.
Nevertheless Kasprzak said she was pleased that the protesters stood at the designated distance, overseen by university security.
“A university is the marketplace of ideas and we want to use that platform to show that abortion is an act of violence that kills a baby,” she said. “We know this exhibit is effective at changing peoples’ minds because they’ve told us that.”
GAP has been exhibited on or near campuses in BC, Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario. Last October, students at Carleton University were arrested when they attempted to set up the display. GAP first appeared in Canada at UBC in November 1999 and it was violently attacked by 3 UBC student leaders of the Alma Mater Society.