JCCF in Court Wednesday April 17, 2013 – campus free speech case against the University of Calgary

Posted on Apr 15, 2013 in Justice Update

At 2:00 p.m. on April 17 the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench will hear oral argument on behalf of seven University of Calgary students who were found guilty of Non-Academic Misconduct for having set up a pro-life display on campus with signs facing outwards.

JCCF president John Carpay has been representing these students since 2007.  The Students’ Brief of Argument and the University’s Brief of Argument are posted here.

The students have been setting up their stationary display on campus twice per year since 2006, once in the spring and once in the fall.  Most recently, the display was set up on campus just last week, on April 9 and 10, 2013.  The display consists of large posters set up in a circle or square, such that people walking by can choose to look at all, some, or none of the signs.  The display includes photographs of abortion, and argues that abortion is comparable to historical genocides.

During the first four displays on campus (spring and fall of 2006; spring and fall of 2007), the University of Calgary posted its own signs on pathways leading towards the display, indicating it was protected by the free expression guarantee of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The University of Calgary has no rule or regulation against controversial expression on campus, and has condoned the display of disturbing visual images on campus by groups other than Campus Pro-Life.  In fact, the University’s stated commitment to academic freedom and other university policies expressly affirm the right of all students and faculty to express their opinion on campus.

In March of 2008, after the students’ display had been set up on campus on four separate occasions, the University of Calgary began demanding that the students turn their signs inwards, to hide them entirely from the view of people passing by.  The students have continued to set up their display on campus twice per year with signs facing outwards, and were eventually charged with Non-Academic Misconduct, and found guilty.

The Court application to be heard on April 17 seeks to overturn the decision of the Board of Governors of the University of Calgary, which found the students guilty of violating Section 4.10 of the Non-Academic Misconduct Policy.  The University argues that the students’ display poses a danger to safety and security on campus.

The 2:00 p.m. court application is open to the public.  Oral argument will by presented on behalf of the students (by John Carpay) and on behalf of the University of Calgary.