Activism Testimony from Michelle

In this third installment in our testimony series, frequent volunteer Michelle shares a conversation where the sight of an aborted pre-born human being alerted one young woman to the sheer injustice of abortion:

At UTM SFL’s outreach table today, I reached out to a student and asked her what she thought about abortion. She stopped, smiled at me, but hesitated to answer. I asked if she believed in human rights and who should get human rights. She said she does and that all humans should get human rights. I agreed with her and then we briefly discussed the science of when life begins. She was saddened to learn the reality of abortion after seeing an abortion victim at 10 weeks. I asked her, “Don’t you agree that human rights should begin when human life begins, which is at fertilization?” Without hesitation she replied, “Yes, I agree.”

Reflections on responding to censorship – and to people in need

Censorship. What an ugly, awful sounding word. Unfortunately, it’s something that’s becoming the norm today across North America. Particularly on university campuses. Whether it’s protesters shutting down an event hosting Jordan Peterson and Ezra Levant at the University of Toronto, or violence erupting at the University of California Berkeley campus over the presence of a politically incorrect speaker, censorship is alive and well across the continent. It practically grinds the bones of the soldiers who fought in the World Wars into the dust, who worked to make our nations free from oppressive powers.

While censorship can take many forms, perhaps the worst comes from student unions. In their fight to end the systems of oppression they see, student unions perpetuate that oppression by limiting or eliminating groups that go against their particular ideologies. One favourite target is those that promote the pro-life stance. In Canada, the past year alone has seen five separate university pro-life clubs enter into lawsuits against their student unions, with varying levels of success. Brandon University Students for Life, for example, was successful in theirs, while Students for Life at Ryerson University ultimately lost their lawsuit following a lengthy court case.

Pro-life students at other campuses are having no less of an easier time. University of Waterloo Students for Life, for example, is on probation following allegations of club misconduct from the university administration. In October of last year, the club at Wilfrid Laurier University had their 100,000 flag display commemorating abortion victims ripped up in a few hours.

This oppression even raises the question of personal safety for some students. It certainly did for the pro-life student at the University of Windsor who was assaulted walking home this time last year. To bring it closer to home, recent developments surrounding the actions of the pro-life group at the University of Toronto Mississauga has had its president falsely accused of spreading hate speech and harassment by both the student newspaper and student union.

To some reading this, it may seem like I am painting a bleak picture. There is no denying it is bleak. A monster is prowling across university campuses, snapping up unsuspecting students, chewing them up and leaving them groaning in campus hallways. All too often, those in its crosshairs are forced to comply with its demands and have most of their autonomy taken away. Those who stand up, wipe the blood from their lips and stare the monster down with defiance are severely punished, becoming the targets of sabotage, subterfuge and downright insane attempts to silence their message, all in an effort to stop their pro-life voice – and the silent voices of the pre-born – from changing campus culture.

How do you beat this monster?

One word: Laughter. Laugh at the shenanigans of those opposed to your viewpoint. Laugh at the effort they expend at silencing your voice and those of the pre-born, be it with newspaper articles or bedsheets. Laugh at the lengths they are willing to go so that you don’t appear on campus ever again, whether it is by forming groups in opposition to yours or going straight to the administration with complaints about your display in an attempt to remove your group permanently. Laugh to yourself as you survive the fireballs launched your way and go on to do another day of activism – you have beat their attempts to ruin you and have cause to celebrate!

All of this comes to naught, however, if you espouse this laughing and celebratory mood during activism. That same monster which sought to beat you down has already beaten down (or is looking to beat down) men and women who have, are, or will go through difficult situations from which they feel they have control over. It’s devastating to see, and you have to respond appropriately. Many of these same shenanigans coming from student unions come from a place of hurt and a refusal to acknowledge the emergency at hand. Respond with love. Respond with warmth those in difficult circumstances may be seeing for the first time. Affirm others’ humanity. Offer support to those who need it. Above all, remember that you are not speaking for yourself – far from it. Not only are you speaking for the pre-born, you are also speaking for (and to) those battered men and women who are seeking refuge from that horrendous monster. Those who come to me and my fellow activists are the ones who need the most assistance.

To those activists who have been beaten down by the monster: There is a second chance to get up and keep soldiering on! Change is possible! If you don’t believe me, just look around at the Canadian landscape – 2016 was a banner year for the movement in Canada and 2017 looks to be just as promising, maybe even more so!

To those activists who are staring the monster in the face: Don’t give up! I know it’s scary. I know a lot is on the line in your personal lives. But even if we led just one person to the support they need, make abortion unthinkable for just one person on campus, it will all be worth it. Trust me. It’s what keeps me going on my darkest days – change is possible and it is happening already.

Finally, to those who are reading this and feel there are no other options available: There are other options there and we are there to help you access them. You don’t have to face them alone – in fact, we don’t encourage you to! We have connections with people in pregnancy care centres. We regularly collaborate and enlist the help of people from other life-saving organizations, be it through the materials we offer or having them on campus during our tabling (albeit as members of the group). These are just snippets of the support we offer. We’re not pretending it’s going to be easy to approach us. It takes effort – for anyone – to admit they need help and are seeking support. But trust me – it only takes one small step for our lives to be changed. Whether it is for better or for worse is up to you. You are the creators of your own world.

Together, let’s make abortion unthinkable in Canada.

Chad Hagel

Chad Hagel is currently the president of UTMSFL, and specializes in History while minoring in Classics. He is in his fourth year.

Activism Testimony from Maria

Over the next few weeks, UTMSFL will be showcasing activism testimonies from several volunteers, about how hearts and minds have been, are, and will continue to be changed and challenged on campus. Here is part one of the series:

Abortion is age-based discrimination. Check out this conversation that Maria, one of our recent volunteers, had about personhood and ageism:

“During activism, a young man asked me why I was there showing people pictures of aborted fetuses. I explained to him that throughout history, different groups of humans had been stripped of their personhood and human rights because of factors like their gender or race, and that today, an entire class of human beings in Canada had no human rights because of their age – because they were living in the first 9 months of life. Before I even explained further, he said, ‘Yeah, all the arguments go back to their age.’ We spoke for a few minutes longer, and before leaving he told me, ‘If your goal was to get me thinking, you’ve definitely succeeded.'”

Interview with the Medium (previously unpublished)

In late January 2017, one of our members, Chad Hagel, was approached by The Medium, the student newspaper at UTM to give an interview regarding the responses UTMSFL had been receiving from students during their recent outreach activities. While Mr. Hagel complied with their request, the interview was never published. In accordance with publishing laws and the right to the freedom of speech, UTMSFL is now publishing this interview in the hopes of inspiring hearts and minds on campus.

What types of responses are you getting from the student body in regards to your group’s message? A mixed or varied reaction?

The responses we have been getting from the student body have been overwhelmingly positive. Whether it has been myself or one of the club members, we have all been impressed by the conversations we have had with our peers on campus. With 300 abortions happening each day in Canada, it is not an easy subject to discuss. However, it is made much easier when both parties are open to talk with each other, ask questions, and engage in productive dialogue. My club members and I have been profoundly impacted by the people we have met through our activism, and many of the people we have spoken to have admitted openly we have given them something to think about.

How does your team find the best way to approach students and start these conversations?

The best way to talk about abortion is through effective, visible and proactive dialogue, and we at UTMSFL have implemented a structure to ensure this is always practiced. All of our active members have received formal training from either us or other pro-life organizations in Canada. Besides introducing participants to the fundamental arguments supporting the pro-life position as it relates to abortion, we also emphasize the duty to conduct ourselves in a manner that invites people to talk to us, as well as support those who are in need of our support. Since our activism includes the use of abortion victim photography, we also train people how to use it appropriately and in a way that is peaceful and non-violent. Since abortion is violence, UTMSFL condemns all forms of violence, a sentiment we reflect by having all our volunteers sign an agreement form that prohibits those who have signed it from taking violent means to spread our message. We have found these strategies essential in creating the best way to approach students and start conversations through our tabling.

What do you hope comes from talking to students around campus?

In talking to students around campus, our hope is make abortion unthinkable in Canada. Statistics show that men and women aged 18 to 25 – the age range of the average university student, in other words – are the demographic most likely to have abortions. University campuses are where our future lawyers, doctors and politicians are being educated and formed. We are facing an emergency of unparalleled proportions. Pre-born children are being killed, with a hundred thousand killed each year in Canada alone. Lives are on the line. With the future of our society literally being threatened by the injustice of abortion, and that same future being written by the education we receive on campus, what better place to start the conversation than right here, right now?

Where does your current lawsuit with UTMSU stand? What are your hopes for the suit? What are your group’s future plans? Are there any court/hearing dates set? Have you been in contact with the UTMSU at all recently?

Our lawsuit has not progressed since our questioning in March 2016. We have no hopes for the suit, besides just watching it play out. UTMSFL’s plan at the present moment is to continue broaching the topic of abortion outside the classroom and provide support to those who need it. There are no court dates set, and we have not been in contact with UTMSU.

Chad Hagel is the current President of UTMSFL, as of February 2017.

New Year, New Update

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In January 2016, UTM Students for Life launched its lawsuit against the UTMSU and its website. In the months since, the lawsuit has been stayed pending a decision in a similar court case, and the website has not been updated.

The lack of updates to the website is due to internal restructuring within the club. Upon the end of the 2015-2016 school year, the club came under new leadership and reoriented its strategies throughout the subsequent summer. In August 2016, the club regained recognition under ULife and has since been exploring new methods of outreach while colluding with other organizations.

In the subsequent weeks, this website will change drastically as new content is added and old content is reorganized. In the meantime, we invite you to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

For Life,
UTM Students for Life

University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union sued over censoring free expression on campus

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union sued over censoring free expression on campus

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has filed a court action against the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), to defend the free expression rights of a pro-life student group that is being denied registered club status by UMTSU.

UTMSU has refused to renew the club status of Students for Life for the 2015-16 year, effectively barring the student group from using the student centre and accessing student union resources.  As a result, in September of 2015, Students for Life could not join other campus clubs in setting up a table during clubs’ week—a key event for recruiting new members.

UTMSU had granted club status for Students for Life in the 2014-15 school year, but changed its mind specifically because of Students for Life’s “stance on Abortion”.  UTMSU’s mission statement includes a commitment “[t]o safeguard the individual rights of the student, regardless of race, creed, sex … or personal or political beliefs,” and lists “strength in diverse voices and opinions” as a “fundamental belief.”

“It appears that UTMSU sees diverse opinions as good for most topics, but not abortion,” stated Calgary lawyer John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.

After receiving a legal warning letter from the Justice Centre in October 2015, Russ Adade, UTMSU Vice-President, changed his previous rationale for denying club status to Students for Life, namely, the club’s stance on abortion.  Adade instead told Students for Life that the reason their club was denied status was “violations and discrepancies we found within your constitution in relation to the clubs handbook and UTMSU operational policy as it pertains to clubs.”

Students for Life immediately made the required changes to their constitution, but UTMSU has continued to deny club status, necessitating court action.

Students for Life has filed a court action against UTMSU for violating its own rules, for acting with bias and bad faith, for breaching the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness, and for failing to respect students’ fundamental freedoms of expression and association.

“The actions of UTMSU have demonstrated their disregard for their own rules, and for students’ freedom of expression and freedom of association,” stated Diane Zettel, President of Students for Life.

For more information, please contact:

Diane Zettel, President, UTM Students for Life
647-224-9339 or diane.zettel@mail.utoronto.ca

John Carpay, President, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms
403-619-8014 or jcarpay@jccf.ca

 

Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

#253, 7620 Elbow Drive SW Calgary, Alberta, T2V 1K2  

JCCF.ca