Students for Life at Ryerson was founded by three Ryerson students (from left to right): Carter Grant, vice-president, Nicole Bryck, president, and Teresa Mervar, treasurer. Photo courtesy of Students for Life at Ryerson

Ryerson pro-lifers lose appeal for club status

  • March 8, 2015

TORONTO - The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) board of directors unanimously voted to reject a campus pro-life club’s application to become an official student campus group.

Students for Life at Ryerson first applied for student group status in the fall last year. In about a month, the group had acquired 31 student signatures to endorse the formation of the club. When the application was rejected by the RSU’s Student Groups Committee, the group began an appeal which was brought for review to the board of directors on Feb. 23.

In a statement released by Students for Life, the RSU said the group’s application was rejected on grounds that the RSU “opposes… groups, meetings or events that promote misogynist views towards woman (sic) and ideologies that promote gender inequity, challenges women’s right to bodily autonomy or justifies sexual assault.”

Carter Grant, a second-year business student and vice-president of Students for Life, said the RSU has given very vague reasons for its decision.

“They haven’t given us any direct reasons, but from the questions that they had from their meetings with us… it seems to only be because we’ve fallen in direct contradiction of an opinion that they hold,” said Grant.

Grant said the group has filed a request for the appeal hearing’s minutes to see if it will be able to find an explanation in those documents. For now, the group is evaluating its next steps.

“Their strongest option is under corporations law. In a corporation, executives or directors of the corporation have a legal obligation to treat all members fairly without discriminating against them,” said Carol Crosson, constitutional lawyer and legal counsel to the group.

“The Ryerson Students’ Union has an obligation to serve all the students fairly… and instead Ryerson Students’ Union is providing a penalty due to the fact that the group doesn’t have the same political beliefs as the student union.”

Crosson said the group has not made any decisions on legal alternatives. For now, Students for Life is hoping to put pressure on the university administration to intervene. “We’ve contacted our university president, Sheldon Levy, and we’ve asked him to intervene in any way,” said Grant. “At the very least, we’re just looking for the opportunity to book rooms on campus to host our events.”

Without student group status, the group is limited in resources. The group won’t have an allocated budget to fund its activities and events. It won’t have access to the larger meeting rooms at the Student Learning Centre and would have to resort to booking library study rooms instead. Grant said that since the group has announced it has been denied club status, it has received messages of support from other pro-life campus groups, like Kwantlen Proctectores Vitae from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia.

According to a 2013 study conducted by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, Ryerson University has one of the best university policies that support campus free speech, while its student union ranks second worst in Canada at supporting free speech.

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