A pro-life group under fire from the University of Calgary has had its university club status revoked by the student union over a graphic display that compares abortion to genocide.
Besides removal of its recognition as a university club, the University of Calgary is pursuing legal action against the students who helped exhibit a display from the international Genocide Awareness Project (GAP). The president of the Campus Pro-Life club, Leah Hallman, told CNA that so far three members of her group have received summons to appear in court for “trespass to premises.”
The students are also facing the threat of either suspension or expulsion for “non-academic misconduct.”
The university’s charges against the students stem from Nov. 26 and 27 of 2008, when members of the Campus Pro-Life Club (CPL) set up the GAP display. 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.
Canwest news service reports that the latest development occurred on Tuesday evening when the University of Calgary Students' Union voted to revoke university club status for Campus Pro-Life.
At the hearing on Tuesday, CPL secretary Asia Strezynski repeatedly asked the committee chairwoman Alex Judd to name the policy that the club had violated but the committee “only referred to a bylaw that gives the Students' Union the right to punish a club for violating policies or bylaws,” according to Canwest.
Loss of its club status means that CPL will lose access to rooms, the ability to borrow equipment from the university for free as well as some funding.
Saying that CPL will appeal the ruling, vice president Cameron Wilson reacted by saying, "This action is a disturbing abuse of power." Under the university bylaws, the club has five days to appeal the ruling.
The CPL argues that a “double standard” is at work, pointing out that that the university has not taken action against other students or groups who use shocking photographs to communicate their message.
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.
In 2006 and 2007, the University had protected the club’s right to erect the display under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.