University of Victoria pro-life club broke ‘harassment’ policy: students’ society
VICTORIA, BC, Thurs Feb 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) has ruled that the university’s pro-life club, Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), broke the UVSS’s “harassment policy” by promoting an event last October that compared abortion to the Holocaust.
At their February 7 meeting, the UVSS voted to censure the club for violating this policy because of the way YPY advertised a talk given by Jose Ruba of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform called “Echoes of the Holocaust,” but not because of the content of the presentation.
According to the UVic student newspaper The Martlet, several complaints were filed against YPY after they held the event. A UVSS Complaints Committee determined that the event’s name “allowed for people to be misled about the nature of the event” and thus it was in violation of the UVSS harassment policy.
“This is not about the content of the presentation at all,” said UVSS chairman James Coccola at the meeting. “This is simply about how the event was marketed.”
“Because many students on campus are capable of having abortions and/or are students of Jewish decent, YPY should have reasonably thought to have known that using marketing materials for their presentation, which compares the Holocaust to abortion, could reasonably create a hostile, intimidating, threatening or humiliating environment on campus for individuals of the student body,” said Coccola. “In this case, we felt that the harassment policy was broken by YPY.”
YPY President Anastasia Pearse responded by telling The Martlet that it was unclear what, precisely, the decision was about.
“It didn’t actually say … what [it was] about the advertising. It was just that the way we advertised constituted harassment,” she said.
“Judging from the discussion, it was because we used the terms holocaust and abortion, or genocide and abortion together in our advertising.”
Pearse added that there was nothing preventing the use of such terms.
“There’s debate in our society as to when and when not it’s appropriate to use those terms [holocaust and genocide]” she explained, “and in the past, it has been deemed appropriate to use the term holocaust to refer to modern day genocides. So there’s nowhere that says that we can’t use that to refer to abortion.”
The censure has no impact on YPY’s club status, which was reinstated last summer after the pro-life club filed a petition with the B.C. Supreme Court initiating legal proceedings against the UVSS. YPY and the UVSS settled out of court on July 13, with YPY’s club status and funding being restored. As well, an amendment to the UVSS constitution that labeled pro-life advocacy as “harassment” was rescinded.
In its decision last week, however, the UVSS voted to mediate a solution with the club to “help prevent further issues,” engage legal counsel to look into how policy can be changed to address concerns regarding off-campus speakers and groups, and hold a restorative justice event.
Pearse responded that while YPY believes there is no basis for mediation and holding a restorative justice event, such as a presentation by abortion advocates, the group is open to dialogue.
“Although we welcome and encourage dialogue on the abortion issue, we have not harassed anyone, and so the actions taken by the board are based on a false ‘guilty’ verdict,” Pearse told VicNews.
“We hope the goal of this dialogue and mediation isn’t to get us to apologize or something. Or to get us to say that we won’t do it again, because that would be censorship,” Pearse remarked to The Martlet.
“We’re glad it’s not censorship. But still, the Board is going to be saying that we contravened the harassment policy, which is not the case,” said Pearse. “We understand that some women have been upset by seeing our posters. We understand that they feel that way. But just because they’ve seen something they dislike does not mean that they’re being harassed.”