University refuses approval, but B.C. pro-life students set up display anyway
BURNABY, British Columbia, November 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Pro-life students at Simon Fraser University set up a display on campus depicting the horror of abortion without incident Monday morning, despite the university’s disapproval.
SFU administration said they would not approve the event, organized by campus club SFU Lifeline, because the club would not agree to turn their signs so that passing students would not see them inadvertently.
But club president Mary-Clare Turner told LifeSiteNews the event was on despite the lack of official approval. “The university hasn’t threatened us with anything at all. They just told us that they were disappointed that we had not set up the signs the way they had requested us to. But that’s all,” she explained.
“I take that as implied permission to continue the display tomorrow as we had planned,” she added.
The club’s display is part of the Genocide Awareness Project, a campaign used on campuses across the country that displays graphic images of aborted babies alongside images of historical genocides such as the Holocaust.
In a press release Monday, Turner argued that the university’s request for them to turn the signs so that passersby wouldn’t see them was “content-based discrimination.”
“If we were putting up signs saying SFU is the best university in Canada, I hardly think they would have asked us to turn our signs in so that students wouldn’t accidentally see them,” she observed.
Turner also noted that there is no policy or rule in at the university that limits student’s peaceful freedom of expression on public areas of the campus.
SFU Lifeline vice-president Sarah Volpatti said in the release that the club had proposed putting warning signs up and then leaving a path behind their graphic signs so students could bypass the display.
“But the university rejected that proposal because the signs weren’t faced inwards,” she said. “The expression of unpopular messages needs protection, not suppression. If students disagree they can walk away or engage in debate. We refuse to be censored. We are going ahead with our display as it was originally booked.”
The university’s president, Dr. Andrew Petter has in the past insisted that the university defend uncensored free speech even on contentious issues.
“When disputes arise in our university around major social and political issues, we should err on the side of tolerating free speech,” he says in a statement on the university’s website. “Provided such speech does not overstep legal boundaries, it should not be censored even though it may be provocative or offensive.”
The Genocide Awareness Project was set up at SFU in 2005 and has been set up on other campuses across Canada, most notably the University of Calgary and the University of British Columbia. In October of last year, students were arrested as they attempted to set it up at Carleton University in Ottawa. The trespassing charges against the students were recently dropped.
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