The Lakehead University Student Union (LUSU) voted 20-3 on Jan. 10 to deny the pro-life club, Lakehead University Life Support, club status. This is another example of discrimination against pro-life students on Canadian campuses.
The club was given four conditions on Dec. 5, 2007 that it was required to agree to before being granted club status by Matt Granville, vice-president of finance with the LUSU. It was later discovered that Granville had crafted these conditions without prior knowledge or consent from the other board members of LUSU. As well, there were no written policies to support his actions in doing so.
One of the policies stated that there must be “no unsolicited education. Life Support can hold meetings to provide education, but there will be no pro-active measures, such as leafleting or unsolicited conversations with students (approaching people to tell them about your club and beliefs).” This condition effectively forces the club to be inactive and violates the very policies the student union is supposed to uphold. Policy 2.1.7 of the Lakehead University Student Union (LUSU) Constitution 2007-2008 Ed. clearly states, “Conscious effort shall be made by each club to ensure that the general membership of the corporation is aware of the existence of each individual club.” This is quite impossible to do with the above condition.
“The other three conditions were:
1) No posters, except those informing members of meetings.
2) Unfunded club status. Life Support will not receive any money from LUSU.
3) You must obtain written permission from the vice-provost student affairs to use ‘Lakehead University’ in your club name.”
According to the LUSU website, the student union “has decided not to grant status due to a poster campaign deemed to be inappropriate.” Cathy Simons, Life Support’s president, clarifies that “it was a single poster campaign that merely stated the pro-life view. They had been actually stamped with approval by LUSU before being put up.” She adds that, “The university campus is supposed to be a haven for discussion, debate and diversity. However, anyone who holds an unpopular view portrayed in their speech or their posters, according to LUSU, shouldn’t be part of a discussion and debate on campus.”
Since the January decision, LU Life Support has received positive feedback from those in the community, province and country-wide. In fact, Simons has yet to recall any negative feedback: “Our inboxes are full every day with letters of support.” Another positive outcome of this is the support from the three student union board members who voted in favour of the pro-life club. The controversy over the club has actually sparked good relationships between club members and some board members.
Benefits of having club status include being able to book rooms on campus, apply for office or locker space, hold a club bank account, have access to free photocopying, faxing and special outlets for advertising events. Most important, though, without club status, the pro-life position is seen as something less legitimate.
Simons recognizes that this fight is important on two levels. Ultimately, Life Support wants to be an official club at Lakehead and be treated equally, because its members pay dues to their student union and and deserve to be represented as such. On a greater scale, though, they know this fight will have repercussions on other campuses and society as a whole. “If we can’t talk about these life and death issues on a Canadian campus, where freedom of speech is celebrated, then where can we?” asks Simons. She continues, “The silencing will only get worse if we don’t fight against it. We need to defend our rights.”
To contact LU Life Support’s Cathy Simons: firstname.lastname@example.org.