University pro-lifers face misconduct charges

  • April 26, 2010
University of Calgary Pro Life displayCALGARY - Just five months after trespassing charges were stayed for members of a pro-life club at the University of Calgary, eight student members are now facing charges of non-academic misconduct.

The charges resulted from a Genocide Awareness Project display the group hosted April 8 and 9. Its display, which compares abortion to atrocities such as the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust, had been hosted without incident eight times since 2006. On April 8, campus security allegedly asked the students to turn their signs inward or leave the campus grounds. They refused.

In 2009, the university charged six students with trespassing for hosting the same display but charges were stayed.

“We always do it once a semester, (and hosted it again) thinking there wouldn’t be any problem because the charges of trespassing have been stayed in court so we figured we were good to go,” said Campus Pro-Life president Leah Hallman.

Hallman, a student with just a year of studies left before graduating, said she hopes the university drops the charges, as they can result in expulsion. The university had made threats of charging the pro-life students with expulsion in the past.

“None of us want to be expelled. We’re all in university for a reason, we want to get an education. But we’re still willing to make the sacrifice necessary for the unborn,” Hallman told The Catholic Register. “We think it’s more important.”

Security asked each student for their contact information, Hallman said, and a week later the university administration couriered letters to each of their homes with the charges and a request for them to attend an internal hearing.

The university administration declined to comment about the reasons for the charges.

“At present we’re not talking any specifics because it’s a private matter between the university and the students involved,” said University of Calgary media spokesperson James Stevenson.

Hallman said the display sometimes does draw protesters, and occasionally protesters might shout at them, but the club follows a strict code of conduct that is non-violent and peaceful, so members would never respond by shouting back or threatening anyone.

“We don’t mind when people come and protest,” she said. “They were across the sidewalk (this time) and we welcome them to do that. We encourage discussion with them. We have no opposition to that whatsoever. They should have the right to do that as well.”

Peter Csillag, CPL’s vice-president, said in a press release that the club will condemn and challenge these charges as it has with previous attempts at censoring.

Vice-president Cameron Wilson read a statement on behalf of the club at a press conference on the university campus April 19.  

“We of Campus Pro-Life have been told countless upon countless occasions that the Genocide Awareness Project, and the pictures contained therein, are offensive and hurtful to look at,” he said. “But if an action is too terrible to look at, how then can it be tolerated? Why should we leave unchallenged and undebated a practice so horrific that words alone fail to describe it? In the many times we have exhibited this display, we have opened up discussion on campus, a place where ignited and educated debate should always feel at home. Furthermore, we have watched and offered counsel to many men and women who have been hurt by abortion, and who have never openly confronted this pain.”

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