Maggie McAuley described the discrimination she faced as a pro-life student on campus at the University of Windsor, Ont. in a National Life Campus Network campaign last month. Photo from National Life Campus Network

Free speech policy in universities called ‘small Band-Aid’ on gaping wound

By  Agnieszka Krawczynski, Canadian Catholic News
  • October 22, 2018

VANCOUVER – Dehumanized. Spat on by a professor. Attacked. Assaulted.

These are the words Maggie McAuley uses to describe the discrimination she faced as a pro-life student on campus at the University of Windsor, Ont.

“A man asked me if I would have an abortion if he raped me. Afterwards, he put a photo of an aborted baby in my mailbox with a single line: ‘your baby after I rape you,’” she said on a video released by National Campus Life Network last month.

“I was terrified to even leave my house.”

McAuley shared her story on a video released 11 days after the Ontario government announced in August that all publicly-funded universities and colleges must have a free speech policy in place by Jan. 1, 2019. The policies would apply to faculty, students, staff, management and guests.

“Universities and colleges should be places for open discussion and free inquiry. The university/college should not attempt to shield students from ideas or opinions they disagree with or find offensive,” says the document.

According to McAuley, the policy is a nice idea, but does not go nearly far enough.

“The problem is a lot of universities already have policies of freedom of speech. Windsor does,” she told The B.C. Catholic. “It’s like putting a small Band-Aid on a split-open head. It’s a gesture. It acknowledges the problem, which is good, but it’s not going to fix it.”

In her mind, the only way to truly protect the free speech rights of university students would be a winning court case in favour of those who feel discriminated. 

According to the National Campus Life Network, it’s a much larger issue than many people realize.

Executive director Ruth Shaw said while McAuley’s story is the “most extreme” she’s heard in the last 10 years, the various components of her story — facing threats of arrest, being spat upon and watching pro-life displays trashed — happen often and across the country.

“Every one of those individual things has happened repeatedly on Canadian campuses” and has “ramped up significantly” in recent years, she said.

While Shaw said the  policy is “a good first step,” she added that it doesn’t do enough to protect students. For example, it stays silent about student unions.

“Student unions are bastions of discrimination in Canada. They are not bound by their own administration, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or Canadian law,” said Shaw. “Who are they accountable to? Seemingly nobody.”

(The B.C. Catholic)

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