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June 03, 2008

Canadian University Student Government Bans Pro-Life Advocacy

As if Mark Steyn's show trial weren't enough, we have another reminder this week that some of our neighbors to the north don't seem to know the first thing about the importance of free and open debate. The York Federation of Students, which serves as the school's student government, is planning to ban student clubs that are opposed to abortion. They vote this weekend.

Gilary Massa, vice-president external of the York Federation of Students, said student clubs will be free to discuss abortion in student space, as long as they do it "within a pro-choice realm," and that all clubs will be investigated to ensure compliance.

"You have to recognize that a woman has a choice over her own body," Ms. Massa said. "We think that these pro-life, these anti-choice groups, they're sexist in nature ... The way that they speak about women who decide to have abortions is demoralizing. They call them murderers, all of them do ... Is this an issue of free speech? No, this is an issue of women's rights."

The YFS provides money and access to facilities for registered student clubs. Massa claims that there is an organized external effort to impose "anti-choice sentiments" on the poor defenseless students at York. They must therefore be protected from the demoralizing words of pro-life groups and speakers. In reality, there's only one purely pro-life organization on campus, according to the article.

In the reverse of what we've come to expect from most universities in the U.S., the York University administration is standing up for speech.

Robert J. Tiffin, York's vice-president of students, said he was "disappointed" the policy was being enacted when virtually all of the student body has left campus for the summer.

"Student governments need to be aware that these are fairly significant decisions that are being made, and it would be useful to engage the much broader community," he said. "It's important to have some of these discussions at a time when the vast majority of students are here to participate."

He said denying students access to the various aspects of the abortion debate was not in keeping with the school's mandate, and that the administration would try to compensate by providing its own venues and resources to legitimate debates.

"It's part of the texture of Canadian society, this debate," he said. "We're committed to ensuring there are the opportunities for these debates."

My mother always says that if you have to resort to cover of darkness, you're probably doing something wrong. That aphorism was endlessly extended to things like wearing masks, using fake identities, and conducting secretive closed-door negotiations in darkened rooms with, um, our girlfriends. And you know what, she was right.

If you've got to wait 'til the rest of the student body is gone to enact a new speech code, you're probably doing something wrong. I bet these student politicians know it, too. They just don't care because it's for a greater good: protecting impressionable minds from pro-life "sentiments."

Joey Coleman at Maclean's (which suddenly I'm reading a lot more--thanks BC Human Rights Tribunal):

By silencing them, the YFS is making them stronger. I never write about the abortion debate in the context of the debate. I only write about it in the context of free speech. The anti-abortion side is benefiting from the attention they are receiving as free speech “martyrs.”

Hat tip to Professor Volokh for the article.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 06:13 PM

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