Heather Anne Robertson

Trent pro-lifers denied club status

  • February 16, 2013

Trent University’s student union has denied club status to the pro-life student group Trent Lifeline.

Trent Lifeline president Heather Anne Robertson, a first-year nursing student, applied for club status with the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) on Jan. 16. Two weeks later, TCSA clubs co-ordinator Vanessa Jones informed her that the application had been denied.

“If you’re not a registered club, you’re not really entitled to be on campus, speak on campus, hold events on campus, etc.” said John Carpay, legal representative for Robertson and Trent Lifeline. “So when a student union refuses to register a club, that effectively boils down to the banning of the club.”

Carpay, based out of Calgary, is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.

He sent a four-page letter to the TCSA outlining how and why its position is illegal.
Robertson said Trent Lifeline intends to appeal the decision to the student union, which is what the TCSA has recommended it should do.

The letter from Carpay to the TCSA said the decision was based on the TCSA not allowing either pro-life or pro-choice campaigning on campus because this “can lead to a very exclusive group, while all the clubs at Trent University must be inclusive.”

Five years ago, a pro-life group was granted club status, said TCSA president Brea Hutchinson, but its status was revoked because it went against the agreement not to show graphic material on campus.

Carpay said Trent does have a pro-choice group on campus called the Centre for Gender and Social Justice, though Hutchinson said it is not an official campus club because “they receive a levy independent of the TCSA.” She added it is located off campus at the Peter Robinson Student Community Centre.

The Centre for Gender and Social Justice can, however, operate on campus as long as one of it members is a student because students are allowed to book space on campus, said Hutchinson, which means Robertson could do the same.

The letter from Carpay also includes the student union’s position that the university does not allow groups that “take away rights or opinions of other people.”

“The Trent Central Student Association, one of its governing principles is free expression, and that’s also a governing principle of the university itself. It’s insane to expect, for example, that the… Trent NDP would be inclusive of right-wingers or Conservatives. So the whole notion that a club somehow needs to be inclusive doesn’t make any sense,” Carpay said.

“We welcome opinion, we welcome debate. On a university campus we would believe that debate should be encouraged. So anybody could come and talk with us,” said Robertson. “The purpose of the club is engaging with students, regardless of their position on these issues. We would want everyone to come out to our events. But in terms of organizing events and promoting a message, we would be guided by the pro-life position we are founded upon.”


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