.- At least three pro-life students have been charged with trespassing for setting up a graphic abortion display in November at the University of Calgary against university demands. The students who exhibited the display, called the âGenocide Awareness Projectâ (GAP), recently received summons to appear in court and must enter a plea by the end of February.
Besides the legal action the university is taking against its students, the pro-lifers are being threatened with suspension or expulsion for ânon-academic misconduct.â
The accused students, members of the Campus Pro-Life Club (CPL) set up the GAP display on Nov. 26 and 27 of 2008. The display includes large color photographs of abortion and compares abortion to other atrocities such as the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.
According to the CPL, the GAP display had been set up on campus six times since 2006 without incident. In 2006 and 2007, the University had protected the clubâs right to erect the display under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The CPL argues that the universityâs recent change of heart exposes a âdouble standard.â The students point out that the university has not taken action against other students or groups who use shocking photographs to communicate their message. In fact, according to CPL, during the time the GAP exhibit was on display, another groupâs display showed âdisturbingâ photographs of atrocities committed by the Chinese government against the supporters of Falun Gong, a Chinese religious group.
Furthermore, âthe university has extended generous tolerance towards campus pro-choice groups, even when engaged in the physical blocking of the pro-life display,â the CPL said in a statement.
At a press conference on Monday, CPL President Leah Hallman described the aims of the GAP, saying âThis project seeks to remove the semantics which surround justification of abortion by using photographic proof. It is for this that we are now locked in a legal struggle.â
She noted the University of Calgaryâs stated commitment to free inquiry and debate, to act as a community of scholars, to lead and inspire societal development and to respect, appreciate and encourage diversity.
âThe lofty ideals and noble sentiments expressed in these simple but eloquent phrases resonate throughout the fibers of our society. In fact, to a large degree, a societyâs commitment to freedom can be measured by the strictness of their adherence to these principles,â Hallman observed.
In this light, she commented, the universityâs legal actions against CPL were âironic.â
âIt is a double standard when an institution dedicated to unfettered thought ruthlessly silences those who disagree with them,â Hallman charged. âDouble standards such as these are not healthy for a society built on liberty and dedicated to equality.â
She characterized the summons as âa blatant attack on the spirit of free speech.â
âWe await with indifference the outcome of this trial, for we but did what our consciences bid us do. To have done otherwise would not be worthy of the legacy of Canada and of freedom,â her statement concluded.
Speaking with CNA in a phone interview on Monday, Hallman said three people had been charged with âtrespass to premisesâ but six people had their names and contact information taken down.
âTheyâve been issuing the summons over a period of time,â Hallman explained. âWeâre expecting all six to be served.â
She said the students are planning to contest the charges in court.
âWe are a little bit surprised because we did have hope still that the university would uphold our right to be there.
âThey had warned us. We werenât overly shocked, but we were very disappointed,â Hallman said.CPLâs web site is located at www.campusprolife.com.