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Pro-life club wins court battle

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

09/07/2016

OTTAWA (CCN) — With the help of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a campus pro-life group has won the right to official club status at Brandon University in Brandon, Man.

The Brandon University Students’ Union (BUSU) had revoked the Students for Life group’s club status in November 2015. Without official status, Students for Life could not book rooms for meetings without paying fees. It also lost other benefits related to club status, yet members were still required to pay annual dues to the student union.

“BUSU was trying to bully Students for Life into silence simply for holding unpopular views,” said Justice Centre president John Carpay, a Calgary lawyer. “Left to stand, this decision would have had disastrous consequences for future students at Brandon University, and all Canadians seeking a forum for diverse opinion at our universities.”

The group appealed the student union’s decision in January 2016, but the student union dismissed the appeal, arguing: the club’s message “made some students feel ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘intimidated’ ’’; that its views “did not align with the Canadian Federation of Students’ official ‘pro-choice’ stance”; and is “redundant, because the issues of suicide and abortion are already being addressed by the LGBTQ Collective and the Women’s Collective.”

The student union told the group they might obtain club status if it “changed (its) views.”

The Justice Centre filed an application with the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench on behalf of club members Catherine Dubois, Kyle Coffey and Silas Lee, seeking an order to have the student union reinstate the pro-life club based on the student union’s own policies and bylaws on freedom of expression.

As a result of the court action, the student union has agreed in writing to reinstate Students for Life’s official club status and recognize them for the upcoming school year.

“As students of Brandon University, we must have the same right as every other fee-paying member of BUSU to participate fully in campus life, like other student groups,” said Students for Life president Dubois. “With this reversal, we are once again looking forward to engaging with our peers on issues that are important to us.”

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