On April 8, pro-life students at the University of Calgary set up the controversial outdoor display the Genocide Awareness Project. They have done this for a number of years and last year were charged with trespassing by police at the request of the university administration. Though they were scheduled for a court date in the fall of 2009, the charges were stayed by Crown prosecutors.
This year, an e-mail was sent to the students’ lawyer on the first day of their GAP display, April 8, from the administration, requiring that, “Campus Pro-Life turn the Genocide Awareness Project signs inward so that the university community does not have to view them” and threatening club members with sanctions for non-academic misconduct.
The students refused to do so because, according to CPL president Leah Hallman, it would be “like telling black people to ride at the back of the bus. Granting us some rights but not all is still discrimination.”
By the afternoon of the first day of the display, campus security issued notices to the students warning them that if they did not turn their signs inward, they would be subject to fines of up to $2,000 (as well as $5,000 for further trespass), arrest, civil action or citation for non-academic misconduct. Abortion advocates had set up their own display to counter GAP and were not given the same notices.
The students of Campus Pro-Life set up the display again on Friday, April 9. As of April 14, no repercussions have come about for the students. In November 2008, campus security took down the information of six students who were part of a GAP display, but it took another couple of months before summonses to court were issued to the students at their homes. This time around, the focus from the campus administration is on internal penalties.
Eight Campus Pro-Life members have been charged with non-academic misconduct over their presentation of the Genocide Awareness Project.
University of Calgary students Alanna Campbell, Leah Hallman, Cristina Perri, Ryan Wilson, Cameron Wilson, Peter Csillag, and Asia Strezynski stand charged with “non-academic misconduct” for having refused the University’s demand that they turn their pro-life display’s signs inwards such that no passersby could see the signs.
The University of Calgary informed the students that their conduct is a “Major Violation” in the same category with theft, vandalism, fraud, sexual assault, firearms misuse, and selling drugs.
The students could face expulsion from school.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation, which is representing the students, says that as a taxpayer-funded institution, the university should not be censoring specific views.
In a press conference Cameron Wilson, the vice president of Campus Pro Life, said, “Our message to the University is this: do unto us whatever you desire, punish us however you wish; but our convictions shall not change, and we shall not alter our actions based on intimidation.”