University of Victoria pro-life group wins partial victory in battle with student union

By  Luc Rinaldi, The Catholic Register
  • July 14, 2010
baby handYouth Protecting Youth, the student pro-life organization at the University of Victoria, has regained its status as an official school club after being denied funding and recognition for the past two years.

The club filed a petition to the British Columbia Supreme Court against the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS), which had withheld the club’s grants, on May 3. In the petition, it requested its club status and funding be reinstated and that the Students’ Society declare the previous actions of denying it the same rights as other clubs illegal. The UVSS had been retaining grants to Youth Protecting Youth that all university clubs are entitled to on the grounds that the club violated the school’s regulations against harassment.

Through mediation between Youth Protecting Youth and the UVSS, the pro-life group’s funding has been restored and it has received the near $800 it was denied since October 2008. Youth Protecting Youth is still waiting to hear from UVSS that its move was illegal, however.

“We are waiting for some sort of solid precedent that will prevent future boards from acting in a discriminatory way,” said Anastasia Pearse, the president of Youth Protecting Youth. “This shouldn’t happen again.”

While the club has achieved part of its goal, it is concerned the same discrimination will occur in the future. The new harassment regulations that have recently been introduced will exclude parts of the previous policy that directly affected pro-life clubs, but Youth Protecting Youth is still concerned actions such as those that sparked its censorship will be viewed as harassment. These include putting up posters on campus and hosting debates or speakers on the issue of abortion.

“They claim that our posters harass women,” said Pearse. “But no matter what we do, they’ll be offended by it. It’s our message that they’re targeting, not our actions.”

Youth Protecting Youth's partial financial victory is certainly one in principle and goes against a trend across Canada where campus pro-life clubs have been denied the same privileges as other school-sanctioned groups. Similar incidences have occurred at a number of Canadian universities, including Guelph, McGill and Lakehead, each resulting in the censorship of pro-life clubs.

“It shows that we must be doing something right,” said Pearse. “If we win, it would send a message to other universities that no club should be denied the same privileges as other clubs.”

Youth Protecting Youth expects the UVSS to make a statement some time in July addressing the remaining clauses of the petition.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.