The routine censorship of pro-life speech at Canadian universities has now expanded into a new realm. In early April, the Men’s Issues Awareness Society launched a court action against the Ryerson Students’ Union for having denied this student group official recognition as a campus club. Without official club status, MIAS cannot easily or readily book rooms, host speakers, sponsor debates, or advertise. While all Ryerson University students are required to pay dues to the student union, MIAS is severely restricted in its ability to engage fellow students in discussion and dialogue.
Like pro-life student clubs, which have been denied club status by student unions across Canada, MIAS offends the radical feminist orthodoxy which now dominates or controls many student unions.
With nearly half of its members being women, MIAS seeks to discuss serious social problems. Fathers with children fleeing domestic abuse or family violence have no dedicated shelters or support services. Most K-12 teachers are women, so schools provide few positive male role models for boys, especially at the elementary level. Compared to girls, boys score poorly in literacy and writing, display higher rates of behavioral problems, have higher rates of dropping out of high school, and are less likely to attend university. Children from fatherless homes are far more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, drop out of high school, engage in violent behaviour, and commit suicide. Despite the pressing need for children to have substantial contact with their fathers, the current legal regime exacerbates fatherlessness.
Even though MIAS renounces violence, supports gay pride parades, and advocates for women’s equality, RSU simply will not tolerate any challenge to radical feminist beliefs about men’s “systemic privilege.” RSU contends that MIAS could become “a breeding ground for misogyny and anti-feminism” and “spin out of control” in the absence of “proper safety measures.” RSU claims that the discussion of male concerns makes women feel unsafe and “harasses” women. Ignoring freedom of expression, RSU goes on to argue (with a straight face) that the men’s issues which MIAS seeks to discuss on campus are already being addressed by the Women and Trans Collective.
Bullies will continue bullying for as long as they can get away with it. Fortunately, courageous students at several universities have stood up against bullying by defending their campus free speech rights in court.
For example, Speak for the Weak, a campus pro-life club in Oshawa, was denied club status by the Student Association at Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Speak for the Weak has taken the Student Association to court, challenging the claim that a pro-life club violates the “anti-oppression” framework.
Likewise, UTM Students for Life has taken the University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union to court over denial of club status, seeking an Order that would prevent this student union from imposing its ideology.
In Edmonton, UAlberta Pro-Life is suing the University of Alberta over its imposition of a $17,500 “security fee” just to be able to set up a pro-life display on campus. This “security fee” follows a U of A decision not to prosecute any of the students who obstructed, interrupted and shouted down a peaceful pro-life display in March of 2015. The behaviour of this mob was clearly contrary to the university’s Code of Student Behaviour, but campus security stood by and watched. After being presented with dozens of photos of illegal behaviour, plus numerous Facebook posts in which students publicly bragged about breaking the university’s rules against disrupting campus events, the U of A still refuses to uphold the rule of law on campus.
We can be encouraged by court victories that have been won. In 2010, Cameron Wilson and other students were found guilty of non-academic misconduct by the University of Calgary for having set up a pro-life display on campus. They took their university to court and won. Wilson v. University of Calgary (2014) now serves as a valuable legal precedents for students across Canada who are displaying the same courage and determination to defend their free speech rights.
In the short term, the future does not look bright for freedom of expression in Canada. However, the courageous and determined students who stand up to these bullying student unions and universities are a light in the darkness. They point towards the eventual and ultimate triumph of good over evil.
Calgary lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which is providing legal representation to students at Ryerson University, University of Toronto Mississauga, University of Alberta, Durham College, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and elsewhere.