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Vandals destroy 3,000 pro-life posters at University of Alberta: campus group urges administration to act

Lianne Laurence Lianne Laurence Follow Lianne
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(L to R) Kianna Owen, Cameron Wilson, and Amberlee Nicol of University of Alberta Go Life

EDMONTON, Alberta, March 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- The student group Go Life has asked University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera to “uphold the rule of law” regarding three students who admitted in Facebook posts to destroying Go Life’s posters on campus.

In a February 26 letter, Go Life’s lawyer John Carpay informed Samarasekera of a five-month “pattern of persistent theft and vandalism” against the pro-life club. From September 2014 to January 2015, nearly 3,000 Go Life posters – costing $280 and 75 man-hours to make and distribute – were ripped down and discarded.

Carpay’s letter says that Go Life gave campus security the incriminating Facebook posts on February 10, but in a meeting two weeks later, peace officer Stephanie Hartwig (who, incidentally, is also security’s LGBTQ liaison officer) told the pro-lifers that security “is seriously contemplating the option of not proceeding with any charges.”

Grace Berry, acting director of the University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) told LifeSiteNews she couldn’t comment because she hadn’t yet reviewed the file. She did say she is the one who will ultimately decide if the students are disciplined.

Kiann McNeil, head of university communications, told LifeSiteNews in an email that the university cannot comment on an ongoing investigation: “Proceedings under the Code of Student Behaviour are confidential and we are not able to speak to the particulars of any matter under the Code based on privacy laws.”

Carpay, president of the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom, says he is concerned security’s inaction will send the wrong message.

The three students asserted on Facebook that they tore down Go Life’s posters because these were “anti-choice” and “triggering,” he told LifeSiteNews, adding, “You don’t have the right to break the law just because you have strong feelings of disagreement with someone else’s opinion on abortion or other controversial topics.” 

Admittedly, a Facebook post alone doesn’t establish guilt, Carpay said, and he would expect a thorough investigation and due process for the alleged vandals. “What is unacceptable is for the university simply to do nothing when compelling evidence exists.”

UAPS has evidence other than Facebook posts, says Go Life president Amberlee Nicol. When the 20-year-old second-year education filed the original report with security, she submitted video recordings of vandalism in action. But the people caught on camera have not yet been identified.

According to Nicol, Go Life was told in the February 24 meeting with UAPS that the Facebook culprits have hitherto unblemished records, and security has discretion whether or not to take disciplinary action. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing,” she told LifeSiteNews, but consideration should be extended to Go Life as well. “We just don’t want this issue dismissed behind the scenes, as if it’s not a big deal, because it is a very serious issue.”

All this takes place in a lead-up to Go Life’s March 3 and 4 display of graphic abortion images on the university’s outdoor quad, an event co-sponsored by the Calgary office of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR).

To Nicol’s knowledge, this will be the first event of its kind at the Edmonton campus, which, with an estimated 35,630 full-time students, is Canada’ fifth largest university.

About seven CCBR staff will join Go Life volunteers for the event. It will differ from the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), which explicitly compares legalized abortion to other state-sanctioned genocides, notably the Nazi extermination of Jews, holocaust and the lynching of African-Americans in the Southern United States.

“Based on our experience and just strategically, we’ve decided not to use the genocide comparison,” said Nicol, who interned this summer with CCBR, and spent this spring break with GAP Florida.

Despite rumors of a planned disruption, “I’m not too concerned,” Nicol said, “It’s very rare that something dramatic happens.”

That hasn’t been exactly the experience of Go Life’s vice-president, 24-year-old Cameron Wilson. During a five-year battle with the University of Calgary over students’ right to hold GAP project on campus, Wilson and six other students were threatened with arrest for trespass and charged with non-academic misconduct.

Now a law student at U of A, Wilson and none other than John Carpay took the matter to court, and were vindicated in an April 2014 ruling that scolded U of C for being “unreasonable.” The university dropped the charges two months later.

Nicol views all encounters as possibilities for evangelization, recounting that she and Kianna Owen have had fruitful discussions with poster vigilantes caught red-handed. The vandalism also backfired, she observed, as some students were so disgusted with the heavy-handed tactics they attended Go Life’s mid-January information session.

She is “really excited to see what happens at U of A” during the March 3 and 4 tentatively titled “Abortion Awareness Project,” Nicol said. “Students haven’t really been challenged on the issue yet.”

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