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 “Genocide Awareness Project” (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 “non-academic misconduct.”
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 club’s right to erect the display under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The CPL argues that the university’s recent change of heart exposes a “double standard.” 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 group’s display showed “disturbing” photographs of atrocities committed by the Chinese government against the supporters of Falun Gong, a Chinese religious group.
Furthermore, “the university has extended generous tolerance towards campus pro-choice groups, even when engaged in the physical blocking of the pro-life display,” the CPL said in a statement.
At a press conference on Monday, CPL President Leah Hallman described the aims of the GAP, saying “This 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.”
She noted the University of Calgary’s 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.
“The 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 society’s commitment to freedom can be measured by the strictness of their adherence to these principles,” Hallman observed.
In this light, she commented, the university’s legal actions against CPL were “ironic.”
“It is a double standard when an institution dedicated to unfettered thought ruthlessly silences those who disagree with them,” Hallman charged. “Double standards such as these are not healthy for a society built on liberty and dedicated to equality.”
She characterized the summons as “a blatant attack on the spirit of free speech.”
“We 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,” her statement concluded.
Speaking with CNA in a phone interview on Monday, Hallman said three people had been charged with “trespass to premises” but six people had their names and contact information taken down.
“They’ve been issuing the summons over a period of time,” Hallman explained. “We’re expecting all six to be served.”
She said the students are planning to contest the charges in court.
“We are a little bit surprised because we did have hope still that the university would uphold our right to be there.
“They had warned us. We weren’t overly shocked, but we were very disappointed,” Hallman said.CPL’s web site is located at www.campusprolife.com.