Demonstrators hold signs during a May 14 pro-life protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario in 2015. CNS photo/Chris Wattie, Reuters

Speaking out: Student council steps out of line

By  Kevin Geenen, Speaking Out
  • November 24, 2017
The censorship began Sept. 28. 

Representatives of the University of Ottawa Students for Life were promoting the club at their table in the university’s student centre when an executive from the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) ordered them to leave. The executive said that she had received many complaints. She then added that she would call Protection Services if the students refused. 

SFL members had gone through the proper procedures to book the space, but, not wanting to escalate the situation, peacefully left. 

After that, Students for Life renewed their club membership and the student federation approved the club Oct. 13. 

Seven days later, the pro-life club received an unsigned email that stated their club status had been revoked. The reason given? The club status was revoked “due to the ways in which (the club’s) mandate is in contention with the SFUO’s principles.” That was it. No explanation. No hearing. Nothing.

It is especially frustrating for me as a new club member (joined in September), but I intend to fight alongside the group. 

The SFUO did not stop at just revoking our club status. Documents revealed that the federation executives were considering a motion to declare support for a number of campus campaigns, including pro-choice. The motion was proposed by vice president of equity Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi.

At the Nov. 5 meeting, my fellow students and I attended to speak against the motion, but it was passed. It read: “No SFUO resources, space, recognition, or funding will be allocated to enhance groups/individuals with the primary/sole purpose of pro-life activities.” The motion received the two-thirds majority to be added to the SFUO constitution.

Regardless of one’s views, the SFUO must recognize that this is an issue of students’ rights and freedoms. Declaring a pro-choice stance in the federation’s constitution restricts the rights and freedoms of an entire group of students, which these student executives were elected to serve.

As such, it is obvious that the student federation needs to review Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Every student has to pay fees to the student federation. Full-time students, like myself and many of the members of Students for Life, pay about $190 per year. In return, the federation is meant to represent them. 

Page 8 of the SFUO constitution states that it aims to “establish a framework whereby its members can share experiences, skills and ideas, communicate, exchange information and debate.” 

They seem to have conveniently forgotten that statement. Universities, by their nature, are supposed to be places where students can exchange ideas. However, at the University of Ottawa, the student federation is allowed to prevent that from happening.

(Geenen, 18 is a first-year communications and political science student at University of Ottawa.)

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