The University of Calgary, a Canadian public university, is censoring a campus pro-life group’s project that compares abortion to genocide. If the student organization continues with its plans to display the exhibit, members could face suspension, expulsion and arrest.
Members of Campus Pro-Life (CPL), a University of Calgary student group, are scheduled to set up a display called Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) on November 26 and 27.
According to the organization’s website, the display is an “outdoor exhibit that visually compares abortion to historical atrocities, such as the Holocaust.” One of the group’s executives, Cameron Wilson explained to CNA that the display uses photos of aborted fetuses and places them alongside photos of genocide and the Holocaust in order to demonstrate the similarities between the “legitimized killings.”
The group has displayed their project five times over the past three years on the university’s campus. However, this semester the school administrators informed CPL that the exhibit would be prohibited from campus grounds unless the signs were pointed inwards, facing each other. Additionally, the student union threatened to pull the group’s charter if they didn’t abide by the restrictions outlined by the school’s administrators.
Though Wilson noted that the group was unsure of the university’s reasoning, he assumed it was due to student complaints.
“I can’t give you the exact number of complaints, but I know there have been some in the past.” He also noted that petitions are occasionally passed through the student body to prohibit the group from setting up the exhibit.
On Monday, the university released a statement citing student safety concerns as the reason for placing restrictions on the display. They note that last year, CPL requested that the University of Calgary “take additional steps to avoid an escalation of physical conflict,” a claim refuted by CPL.
In a letter addressed to the University counsel on October 30, CPL members explain that in between 2007 and 2008 the university implied that campus security may not be provided when GAP was set up. CPL acknowledged that the absence of security may lead to violence, citing a previous incident in 2005 when no security was present.
The pro-life student group also notes in the letter that it asked for security because it “is the appropriate means of ensuring that differing viewpoints – including the views of those who disagree with CPL – can all be expressed peacefully without violence, threats or intimidation.”
“The fact that campus security was present (even at minimal levels) during all five previous GAP displays,” the student group wrote, “ensured that there was a peaceful atmosphere in which students could engage in discussion, debate, and the exchange of ideas, as is appropriate on a university campus. Discussion and debate is exactly what ensued.”
The university sees things differently, alleging in a statement that “Campus Pro-Life’s actions, and the organization’s repeated refusal to respond to reasonable requests, have elevated the University’s concern for the safety and security of students, faculty and staff.”
In order to ensure that the display will not be set up, the university says that the Calgary Police were asked to “take appropriate steps to uphold the notice to vacate.”
The group was warned, according to CPL’s website, that members “could face arrest and charges of non-academic misconduct up to and including expulsion,” if the exhibit faces the campus.
Though they have been warned, the group’s members maintain that they will carry out their initial plan for November 26 and 27.
This isn’t the first time a pro-life group at a Canadian university has faced repercussions due to their pro-life position. CPL’s website also identifies Lakehead University, the University of Guelph, UBC Okangan and the University of Victoria as being sanctioned for their moral beliefs.