Pro-life group denied status at Thunder Bay university

By  Tom Scura, Catholic Register Special
  • January 25, 2008

{mosimage}THUNDER BAY, Ont. - Lakehead University Life Support was officially denied club status on campus on Jan. 10.

That decision, made by the university’s student union, was based on a poster campaign which some students found offensive.

“Last year, the club engaged in a poster campaign that was deemed by our board to have violated the student union’s principles by creating an atmosphere of guilt and in some instances victimization,” said Matthew Granville, vice-president of finance for the student union.

The posters equated abortion to murder, said Granville. Therefore, the pro-life group, which was granted club status in 2006-07, was offered probationary terms as a condition for getting club status.

“They chose not to accept those (probationary terms) so their application to renew their club was not granted,” said Granville.

However, Cathy Simons, president of Life Support, says the union has denied basic democratic rights to the two-year-old club.

“The sole discussion right now is about freedom of speech at the university,” said Simons.

Life Support posters were pre-approved by the student union and were taken down an hour after being put up, Simons said.

The probationary terms “are absolutely discriminatory against one specific club,” she said. These conditions include no unsolicited talking to students, handing out pamphlets or putting up posters to propagate Life Support’s views.

“With those conditions, basically it would be saying, you can be a club, but you can’t act as a club, nor can you speak as a club, nor can you hold beliefs as a club. So what’s the point of being a club if we can’t in any way act as a club on campus?” Simons said.

The membership of Life Support is composed of Christians, most of whom are Catholic. But, Simons, a Catholic, says Life Support is neither a political nor religious club.

“We are an educational group.”

Life Support has received support and guidance from a local pro-life group. It is also being helped by the National Campus Life Network, which says Lakehead’s student union is guilty of “discrimination” and is contradicting its own principles of conduct. The NCLN has seen similar battles on other Canadian campuses across Canada in recent years.

“We’re realizing there’s not much help on university campuses,” said Theresa Matters, NCLN’s executive director. “The students have tried to talk and reason with the student unions, and they’re not listening.”

To get Lakehead’s student union to listen, Life Support is going to the media and attempting to build global support for its cause.

“We are sending pleas for support to pro-life groups around the world, asking them to e-mail the student union, and they’ve sent many letters of support for us,” said Francisco Gomez Jimenez, of Life Support. The club is also considering lodging a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

“That’s probably coming,” said Gomez, “especially since the student union has officially proclaimed itself to be pro-choice.”

Previous to its decision to come out as pro-choice on Jan. 21, the student union claimed neutrality on the abortion issue, Gomez said.

He calls the student union’s treatment of Life Support “thoroughly discriminatory.”

(Scura is a freelance writer in Thunder Bay, Ont.)

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