Carleton pro-life group told to become pro-choice to receive funding

  • November 18, 2010
Ruth LoboOTTAWA - Carleton University’s pro-life club must become pro-choice if it wants to receive student union funding and recognition on campus.

The Carleton Student Union Association (CUSA) revoked the club status of Carleton LifeLine and said it must change a clause in its constitution which violates CUSA's anti-discrimination policy supporting “a woman’s right to choose” in order to be recertified.

“Our constitution has not changed since our club was first certified in 2007,” said James Shaw, vice-president of Carleton Lifeline. “We have always received funding and status whenever we applied, and were always re-certified as a club from year to year.”

“I will never get over the shock that there is a discrimination policy that allows them to discriminate against us,” said club president Ruth Lobo. She compared CUSA’s move to telling a Catholic club it had to teach atheism.

CUSA demands Lifeline change this section of its constitution: “Carleton Lifeline believes in the equal rights of the unborn and firmly believes that abortion is a moral and legal wrong, not a constitutional right. Therefore, Carleton Lifeline shall work to promote the legal protection of the unborn and their basic human rights to life.”

The Catholic Civil Rights League has condemned CUSA’s move as a violation of freedom of expression.

“We hope the students will come to recognize the irony of restricting a group because of its opinion, often based on religious belief, and then citing a non-discrimination policy as the reason,” said League executive director Joanne McGarry. “Unfortunately, some of the incidents involving pro-life clubs on campus in recent years suggest that not all university administrations support equal access to club facilities for pro-life groups.”

Carleton Lifeline is not alone in its predicament. Pro-life clubs on many university campuses across Canada have been denied club status for not being pro-choice in recent years.

The civil rights league blames the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) “pro-choice” policy. CFS is the umbrella organization for university student associations.

CUSA also opposes “actions such as any campaign, distribution, solicitation, lobbying, effort, display, event etc. that seeks to limit or remove a woman’s right to choose her options in the case of pregnancy.” CUSA’s Khaldoon A. Bushnaq wrote Lobo in a Nov. 16 e-mail: “As such, no CUSA resources, space, recognition or funding will be allocated for the purpose of promoting these actions.”

Lobo was not surprised to get the e-mail as CUSA had warned her previously the club would be decertified.

Lobo was among five students arrested Oct. 4 after they tried to mount a display on campus of graphic photographs comparing abortion to genocide. Though other students have mounted displays in the well-trafficked Quad, Ottawa police handcuffed the pro-life demonstrators and carted them away in a police wagon. They face trespassing charges and fines amounting to $130 each.

Shaw, who was among those arrested, said a students’ association must respect the diversity of opinion within its own membership.

“As a student, I am forced to give money to CUSA when I pay my tuition which means that I am paying CUSA to discriminate against me,” said club member Nicholas McLeod, who was also arrested. “Obviously, our group is going to challenge this.”

Lifeline legal counsel Albertos Polizogopoulos has written CUSA directing it to recertify the club and “grant them all of the rights, privileges and funding afforded to certified campus clubs and societies.”

The civil rights league said if groups are decertified, their members should be reimbursed a portion of their compulsory dues to associations like CUSA.

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