Trespassing charges brought against six members of Campus Pro-Life, the University of Calgary’s pro-life club, have been stayed by the Crown prosecutor – a decision that means the charges effectively have been dropped.
“We are relieved by this decision on the part of the Crown prosecutor,” club president Leah Hallman stated in a press release. “Campus Pro-Life has consistently maintained that all of our actions were in full compliance under the law.”
The students were prosecuted by their university in February 2009 after conducting a pro-life display on the campus in November 2008. The group had staged the Genocide Awareness Project, a display using images to compare abortion to past historical atrocities, every semester since 2006.
In previous years, the university had protected their right to put up the display, but it changed its approach last year, initially seeking to have the display face inward and then threatening arrests and sanctions. University officials claimed they were seeking to censor the display based on anonymous complaints and suggestions that the display could provoke violent reactions, despite the fact there had not been any such incidents in the past.
“When we notified the university that we would be doing GAP in spring ’09, within a week or so of that, police started showing up at our doors giving us summons to court,” Hallman told LifeSiteNews.com. Calgary police delivered the charges at the students’ homes in February. “It was shocking to all of us,” said Hallman.
They each pleaded not guilty at a court appearance on March 16. At that time, Hallman argued: “We have asked the university several times which of its by-laws, policies, regulations or other authority it relies on for censoring our viewpoint and have received no answer to date.”
The court date was set for Nov. 4, but the students found out just five days before that the charges had been stayed. “Just today, we found out that they have stayed the charges,” Hallman told LSN on Oct. 31, “which essentially means that the Crown could bring them back in within a year. But that, in the past, has been very unlikely, so it essentially means to us that it’s been dropped.”
Hallman indicated that they could still face three counts of trespassing, including the stayed charges, because campus security took down their contact information at the GAP display in the spring and when they did it again in the fall.
Nevertheless, the group is committed to continue standing up for the right to life. “Campus Pro-Life will continue being a voice for the voiceless,” said club treasurer Alanna Campbell. “We hope to continue our activities on campus and raise awareness among the next generation of community leaders.”
The Canadian Constitution Foundation, which was helping represent the club, said the staying of the charges “amounts to a great victory for these students and for the free speech rights of all Canadians.”
A version of this article first appeared Nov. 3 at LifeSiteNews.com and is reprinted with permission. Additional material was added by Paul Tuns.