Lakehead pro-lifers denied club status, attacked online

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  • November 19, 2009
{mosimage}After denying club status to a student pro-life club, the Lakehead University Student Union has posted an attack on its web site from one of its members likening the pro-life members to murderers.

“This group represents the same mentality of those who threatened the life of Dr. Henry Morgentaler, the same mentality of those who gunned down Dr. George Tiller this past May and the same mentality that would follow a radical statist agenda in order to grant the state power over individuals,” alleged student union vice president Josh Kolic in an online letter addressed to the student body, posted Nov. 6.

“The statement put online  seems very unprofessional, almost to a point of harassment,” said Theresa Gilbert, executive director of National Campus Life Network.  NCLN is an organization that provides informational support to campus pro-life clubs in Canada.

Life Support, the Thunder Bay, Ont., school’s pro-life club, was denied status through a majority vote at the student union’s Oct. 29 meeting. This comes just days after charges against pro-life students in Calgary, who were charged with trespassing on their own campus last year, were stayed by The Crown. The Calgary-based group had displayed the controversial Genocide Awareness Project which contains images of aborted fetuses and compares abortion victims with victims of past atrocities such as the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. In contrast, members of Thunder Bay’s Life Support group have not had the chance to host activities this year other than having an information table to dispense a pamphlet about who they are and how to get involved.

The club, under different leadership, was targeted and stripped of its status three years ago by the LUSU allegedly because of a postering campaign, which LUSU president Dave Grad said the union feared might be repeated.

Statements made by Kolic and Grad don’t reflect reality,  Gilbert said, considering the content of the pro-life group’s constitution that was submitted for review this year. The document provided three examples of events the pro-life students planned to host, which included a baby shower on campus for new mothers or at a local maternity home, a movie night to foster discussion on the issues of life, and an information booth where surveys could be filled out for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate by guessing the age of a fetus in the various stages of fetal development.

“Stages of development are similar to what you’d see in a biology textbook and it shouldn’t be an insensitive thing because we’re looking at life in the womb,” Gilbert said.

Grad told The Register that Kolic’s comments — which included a call to action for students to attend the next board meeting and “give a deputation to the board as to why a woman’s right to choose is important to you” — were merely Kolic’s opinion and did not reflect the views of the entire student union. He cited finance allocation and protection to students as reasons for denying their status.

“They are more than welcome to re-apply if they can prove they would make the students feel comfortable. Just right now, we don’t want to provide funding to a club that might hurt students,” Grad said.

However, Grad’s comment about funding contrasts with the pro-life group’s submitted constitution, which under the budget section stated “(Life Support) does not wish to receive individual club budget from LUSU.”

Maggie Ten Hoeve, president of Life Support, said Kolic prevented the other members of the student union from seeing Life Support’s constitution because of its “sensitive contents.”

“If Josh and those against us took the time to read our constitution and find out what we really stand for, they would know that we are not aggressive and do not have an exclusive focus,” Ten Hoeve said. “Instead, his statement vilifies us as individuals and as a club. We are not sure how students will react but hope that they have enough common sense to not believe everything they read and to contact us with their concerns.”

Ten Hoeve added that Grad’s concern that Life Support would engage in a postering campaign is a strange argument.

“All activities for any club go through LUSU to be approved, therefore if we did plan another poster campaign (like former members of the club) we would go through the appropriate guidelines to do so. It is important to note that the posters that were put up almost three years ago were approved by LUSU. It was only afterwards when a few students complained that LUSU started discriminating against our club.”

Another item in the opinion letter posted by Kolic leaves Ten Hoeve scratching her head. Kolic wrote that “I met with members of Life Support in early October and suggested to them that if they truly wanted to represent ‘pro-life’ values that they would perhaps be better served advocating for increased programs for expectant mothers on this campus or increased funding for child care services on campus.”

Ten Hoeve said Life Support openly brought that idea to the table first.

“In one of our club meetings we had already decided that one of our goals for the year was to present to LUSU ‘Project Mommy.’ In this project we wanted to highlight all aspects where the school needs to improve the support for pregnant students and students with infants,” Ten Hoeve said.

“The goal of this project was to push for a referendum asking LUSU to fund this initiative. Unfortunately this project is put on hold since all of our time is going towards arguing for our rights to be a club.”

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