Active Cases

UAlberta Pro-Life v. University of Alberta

The Justice Centre is acting on behalf of Amberlee Nicol, Cameron Wilson, and the student club UAlberta Pro-Life in its court application against the University of Alberta to challenge a $17,500 “security fee” demanded by the University in order for the group to set up a peaceful display on campus in February 2016.  The court application also challenges the University’s decision to condone violations of the Code of Student Behaviour (Code) directed against the pro-life club in March of 2015.

On January 11, 2016, UAlberta Pro-Life applied for University authorization to set up a stationary educational display on campus on February 23 and 24, 2016.  On February 12, only eleven days prior to the scheduled event, the University of Alberta notified the students that they would need to pay $17,500 in “security fees” to proceed with their peaceful educational display.  In its communication, the University demanded that pro-life students pay for the wages of security guards and police, and costs of barricading the venue, and pay for the potential misconduct of people who would violate the University’s Code of Student Behaviour by obstructing and disrupting the display.  Unable to pay $17,500, UAlberta Pro-Life was forced to cancel its planned event in February 2016.

In March of 2015, UAlberta Pro-Life held a similar event, which (then) President Indira Samarasekera supported through a public statement that the University must facilitate and protect the peaceful expression of all views, regardless of popularity.  In defiance of the President’s clear statement about free expression and the rule of law, a student-led mob blockaded and obstructed the club’s display, in violation of the Code of Student Behaviour.  Although the University had advance notice that a mob was being organized to obstruct the display, and although Dr. Samarasekera had warned that any misbehaviour would be investigated and prosecuted, the University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) did nothing to stop the blockade of the club’s display.  UAPS did not photograph or seek to identify any blockading student, even though the Code clearly prohibits students from disrupting or obstructing University-related functions.

On March 11, 2015, UAlberta Pro-Life filed a formal complaint with UAPS against the disruptive students pursuant to the Code of Student Behaviour. It took UAPS over eight months to release a decision in regard to the complaint.  In its November 30, 2015 decision, UAPS confirmed that the University would neither charge nor prosecute the students who disrupted, blocked and obstructed the March 2015 display on campus.

On December 18, 2015, the Justice Centre wrote to the University of Alberta Office of Student Conduct and Accountability to appeal the UAPS Decision. On February 4, 2016, the Office of Student Conduct and Accountability dismissed the appeal.

In its court application, UAlberta Pro-Life seeks a declaration that the decision made by the University of Alberta to impose a $17,500 security fee on the club is illegal and unjustifiably infringes the fundamental Canadian value of freedom of expression, also protected by section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  The court application further seeks to prohibit the University from imposing a financial burden on the students as a condition for the exercise of their freedom of speech.

This court application also seeks a declaration that the decision made by the University of Alberta to condone the conduct of students who disrupted and blockaded the University-authorized campus event of UAlberta Pro-Life in March of 2015, is unreasonable and therefore illegal.

Ryerson Men’s Issues Awareness Society v. Ryerson Students’ Union

The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) has denied club status to a student group seeking to discuss issues and views on campus that RSU executives disagree with.

The Men’s Issues Awareness Society at Ryerson (MIAS) is a student group established in 2015 by students at Ryerson “to host discussions and bring social awareness to issues that disproportionately affect men and boys, such as higher rates of suicide, homelessness, workplace injuries and failure in school.”  Nearly half of MIAS’ members are women.

On October 19, 2015, MIAS submitted its application to RSU for recognition as a student group.  At a meeting with RSU’s Student Group Committee on October 26, RSU told MIAS that there was no need for a men’s issues group.  RSU took the position that other groups like the Women and Trans Collective were already addressing many of the issues MIAS sought to focus on.  Further, RSU claimed that men have “systemic privilege,” and that a group focused on men’s issues would “harass” women and make them feel “unsafe”.

On October 27, 2015, MIAS was informed that its application for club status had been rejected. MIAS immediately appealed the decision, making numerous changes to its constitution to answer concerns the RSU had listed. These amendments expressly stated MIAS’ pre-existing commitments to remain independent of any external control, to reject all forms of violence and hate speech, to take all precautions for safety at any group functions, and to provide a safe place for discussions free of fear for personal safety. Nevertheless, on January 26, 2016, the RSU Board of Directors voted to reject MIAS’ appeal.

As a result of RSU’s decision to deny club status, MIAS is excluded from RSU club services such as funding, advertising, event approval services, and free room and facility bookings, even though MIAS members are required to pay fees to RSU.  RSU has recognized over 80 other student groups, ranging from ideological and religious clubs to shared ethnic and hobby clubs.  Without student group recognition, MIAS has been forced to hold events off campus, because they cannot afford to book event rooms on campus.  This has made it very difficult for the group to engage with their peers and attract new members.

The Justice Centre has filed a court application against RSU on behalf of MIAS.  In the court application, MIAS seeks a declaration that the decision of the RSU to deny their application for student group recognition (i) was contrary to the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness, (ii) was tainted by a closed mind and bias, and (iii) was not made in good faith; that it exceeds RSU’s jurisdiction and is contrary to RSU’s own policies and rules; and that it is unreasonable, discriminatory and contrary to fundamental common law values and the values of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by failing to respect Ryerson University students’ freedom of expression and freedom of association.

This court application further seeks an order prohibiting RSU from limiting access to its services and other resources on account of the thoughts, beliefs, opinions, expressions or associations of students or student groups.

Speak for the Weak v. Student Association at Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology

The Student Association of Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology (“Student Association”) refused to grant club recognition to the student group, Speak for the Weak, due to its stance on abortion.  The Student Association claims that allowing a pro-life club on campus would constitute “systemic societal oppression”, and would violate “human rights”.  The Student Association further claims that only clubs which support abortion are “equity-seeking” and therefore allowed on campus.

Speak for the Weak’s application for club status was denied in September 2015.  The students spent most of the fall semester unsuccessfully attempting to appeal the decision to the Student Association’s Board of Directors. Without club status, student groups cannot gain access to Student Association space and resources, making it very difficult to conduct activities and engage with the student body.

In a court application filed on behalf of Speak for the Weak, the Justice Centre argues that the Student Association has violated its own policies and rules, failed to follow the principles of natural justice, based its decision on irrelevant considerations, and failed to respect students’ freedoms of expression and association.

Students for Life v. University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union

The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) 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.”

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 a court application.

The Justice Centre has filed a court application on behalf of Students for Life 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.

Trinity Western University v. Law Society of British Columbia

The law societies of B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia have ruled against recognizing the law school of Trinity Western University (“TWU”), a private Evangelical Christian university in Langley, B.C.  All other law societies in Canada have voted in favour of accepting TWU’s graduates. As a consequence of the Law Society of B.C.’s (“LSBC”) refusal to recognize TWU’s law program the B.C. Minister of Advanced Education rescinded the province’s approval of the law program.  TWU filed an Originating Application for judicial review of the LSBC decision.

On December 10, 2015, the Chief Justice of the B.C. Supreme Court ruled against the LSBC.  The LSBC has appealed to the Court of Appeal of B.C.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has approved the law program of TWU as meeting academic and professional standards.  The LSBC admits there is nothing wrong with TWU’s law program, but claims that TWU’s Community Covenant discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community.  The Community Covenant prohibits numerous legal activities such as vulgar or obscene language, drunkenness, viewing pornography, gossip, and sexual activity outside of the marriage of one man and one woman.

As an intervenor in all three provinces where TWU’s right to start a law school has been challenged, the Justice Centre argued for the Charter section 2(d) right to freedom of association, including the right of every charity, ethnic and cultural association, sports club, temple, church, and political group to establish its own rules and membership requirements.

Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada

On July 2, 2015, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice upheld the decision of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) to refuse to recognize the law program of Trinity Western University (TWU), a private Evangelical Christian university in Langley, B.C.  TWU has appealed.

The Justice Centre intervened in this court action, in support of Charter section 2(d) right to freedom of association, including the right of every charity, ethnic and cultural association, sports club, temple, church, and political group to establish its own rules and membership requirements.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has approved the law program of TWU as meeting academic and professional standards.  The LSUC admits there is nothing wrong with TWU’s law program, but claim that TWU’s Community Covenant discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community.  The Community Covenant prohibits numerous legal activities such as vulgar or obscene language, drunkenness, viewing pornography, gossip, and sexual activity outside of the marriage of one man and one woman.

Trinity Western University v. Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society

The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society (NSBS) has refused to recognize  the law program of Trinity Western University (TWU), a private Evangelical Christian university in Langley, B.C.  The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has approved the law program of TWU as meeting academic and professional standards.  The NSBS does not allege that there is anything wrong with TWU’s law program, but claims that TWU’s Community Covenant discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community.  The Community Covenant prohibits numerous legal activities such as vulgar or obscene language, drunkenness, viewing pornography, gossip, and sexual activity outside of the marriage of one man and one woman.

The Justice Centre previously intervened in this case at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in December of 2014, to argue for the Charter section 2(d) right to freedom of association, including the right of every charity, ethnic and cultural association, sports club, temple, church, and political group to establish its own rules and membership requirements.  On January 28, 2015, Justice James Campbell of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia ruled against the NSBS, stating “The Charter is not a blueprint for moral conformity. Its purpose is to protect the citizen from the power of the state, not to enforce compliance by citizens or private institutions with the moral judgments of the state.”

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal will release its decision in this case on July 26, 2016.

AFDI v. City of Edmonton

The Justice Centre is representing a non-profit human rights advocacy group in a court action against the City of Edmonton. The City cancelled bus advertisements that opposed the “honour killings” of women and girls, in response to complaints about the ads.

In October of 2013, ads ran on Edmonton Transit buses reading “Muslim Girls Honor Killed By Their Families”, showing photos of Aqsa Parvez and six other women, murdered for choosing to live by Western values like women’s equality. The rest of the ad read “Is your family threatening you? Is there a fatwa on your head? We can help: go to FightforFreedom.us”.

So-called “honour killings” occur when a woman is considered to have sullied the family’s honour through some sexual indiscretion, or even perceived immodesty. Her killing is considered to cleanse the family’s honour. Aqsa Parvez was only 16 when she was strangled to death for refusing to wear a hijab. Aqsa’s brother and father felt that not wearing a head scarf dishonoured the family, so they killed Aqsa in her own home in Mississauga, on December 10, 2007.

The transit ads were paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a non-profit, non-partisan human rights advocacy group. The organization defends freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, individual rights, and the equality of all people before the law.

Questioning has been completed. The hearing in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton is scheduled for September 1, 2016.

Kevin Kisilowsky v. Manitoba

The Justice Centre is representing a former Manitoba Marriage Commissioner, Kevin Kisilowsky, who lost his licence to perform marriages after he indicated that, based on his religious beliefs, he was unable to perform same-sex ceremonies.

Apart from Mr. Kisilowsky and a very small number of other marriage commissioners, almost all of Manitoba’s more than 1,000 marriage commissioners are willing and able to provide same-sex ceremonies. There is no need for Manitoba to require each and every marriage commissioner to be willing to provide this service. Mr. Kisilowsky is asking only that the government provide reasonable accommodation for him, as other provinces have done for their marriage commissioners, without imposing hardship on any party. A hearing date is pending.