Plaintiff Ruth Lobo

Lifeline lawsuit survives challenge

By 
  • September 7, 2011

OTTAWA - An amended lawsuit that could impact the way pro-life clubs are treated on university campuses across Canada was re-filed Sept. 6 after surviving a court challenge by Carleton University.

Attorney Albertos Polizogopoulis, acting on behalf of former officers of Carleton University’s pro-life club Lifeline, said the case has important implications for freedom of expression on university campuses.

Plaintiffs Ruth Lobo and Nicholas McLeod were among five students arrested, handcuffed and carted away in a police wagon last October after trying to mount a Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) exhibit on the Carleton University campus. The GAP uses graphic photographs to compare abortion to various genocides.

 

The two former Lifeline officers, who were charged with trespassing, filed their lawsuit last February, but Carleton filed a motion to dismiss it as scandalous, frivolous or vexatious and an abuse of the court.

In a split decision Aug. 8, Madam Justice Toscano Roccamo allowed the plaintiff’s to continue their lawsuit on the basis of their claim for wrongful arrest but struck their allegation the university had breached its fiduciary duty to provide an environment of free and open debate of controversial ideas.

The judge also struck three other allegations in the plaintiffs’ statement of claim but granted them leave to amend them. Those claims include: that the university violated the plaintiff’s Charter rights; that the university violated its own policies and therefore was in breach of contract with the plaintiffs; and that the university’s actions damaged the plaintiffs’ reputations.

“The judge gave us a second shot at pleading these causes of action,” said Polizogopoulis. “As pleaded there were problems, but we have a second chance to plead it properly.”

Now that the causes of action have been re-filed, the ball is in Carleton’s court, he said.

A spokeswoman for the university said Carleton declined comment because the case is before the courts.

Carleton Lifeline is one of several pro-life clubs across Canada that has experienced difficulties on university campuses. In 2009, the University of Calgary charged members of the Campus Pro-Life club with trespassing, but a judge later stayed the charges. The university’s student union also decertified the club.  The Carleton University Student Union has also decertified Lifeline, so it cannot gain funding from mandatory student dues or use public facilities to advertise its meetings. The student union of the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columba denied a pro-life club there official status.

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