Brandon University Students for Life v. Brandon University Students’ Union

Brandon University Students for Life is a campus student group at Brandon University focused on generating debate and discussion on campus regarding euthanasia, abortion, suicide and other life issues.  Students for Life has been active on campus since 2012, when it first sought student group status from the Brandon University Students’ Union (“BUSU”).  BUSU initially denied recognition to Students for Life, but after receiving a warning letter from the Justice Centre, BUSU changed its position and granted student group status to Students for Life in September of 2013.  Since then, Students for Life has conducted numerous peaceful events on campus to engage with fellow students.

However, in November 2015, BUSU revoked Students for Life’s student group status, without informing the Students for Life of its intentions to do so, and without providing any opportunity for Students for Life to defend itself.  BUSU further failed to inform Students for Life that its student group status had been revoked.

Students for Life did not learn that its student group status had been previously revoked until January 2016, when its communications director Andrew Madill attempted to book space in the Mingling Area of the Student Union Centre.  BUSU informed Mr. Madill that Students for Life no longer had student group status, and was therefore ineligible to book space in the Mingling Area, a prime location for student groups to engage their fellow students.

BUSU has attempted to justify revoking Students for Life’s student group status on the following grounds:

  • its message has made some students feel “uncomfortable” and “intimidated”;
  • it was affiliated with a Canadian pro-life group that BUSU “had issues with”;
  • its beliefs did not align with the Canadian Federation of Students’ official pro-choice stance; and
  • it was redundant, because the issues of suicide and abortion are already being addressed by the LGBTQ Collective and the Women’s Collective.

In February 2016, BUSU told Students for Life that:

  • it might be able to regain its student group status if it “changed [its] views;”
  • it “can’t really talk about personal issues;” and
  • it cannot “put [its] views out to a larger body.”

The removal of its student group status means that Students for Life can no longer book meeting rooms from either BUSU or Brandon University, unless its pays booking fees that no other student groups are required to pay.  Further, Students for Life no longer has access to numerous other benefits attached to student group status.  Yet, Students for Life’s president Catherine Dubois and other members must still pay mandatory fees to BUSU.

The Justice Centre filed a court application on behalf of Students for Life against BUSU in July of 2016. In the court application, Students for Life seeks a Court Order that its student group status be reinstated, and that BUSU be prohibited from further illegal discrimination.

In her sworn affidavit, filed with the Court, Catherine Dubois states:

“As members and executives of Students for Life and students of Brandon University, we feel that BUSU is excluding us from the Brandon University community.  We desire to associate as a campus club, and to express our views peacefully, but the BUSU’s obstruction and suppression of our views and our expression, including BUSU’s revocation of our student group recognition, have significantly diminished our ability to do so.  We feel marginalized, censored and discriminated against by BUSU simply because we want to host events, share our views, and have discussions about life and death issues such as abortion and physician-assisted suicide.”

The court action was settled on August 24, 2016.  BUSU agreed in writing to reverse its 2015 decision revoking Students for Life’s student group status, and to recognize Students for Life an official student group in the 2016-2017 school year.

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