February 1, 2016
Free speech at stake in court application against Oshawa student union
OSHAWA: The Justice Centre has filed a court application against the Student Association at Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology (“Student Association”) to defend the free speech rights and freedom of association of a pro-life student group. This follows a week after a similar court application was filed against the University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union, which also denied registered club status to a campus group over its stance on abortion.
The Student Association has refused to grant club recognition to Speak for the Weak because of 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 its court application, Speak for the Weak argues that the Student Association violates its own policies and rules, fails to follow the principles of natural justice, bases its decision on irrelevant considerations, and fails to respect students’ freedoms of expression and association.
“As students at a public college and university, we are disappointed that the Student Association refuses to treat us like other student groups. Even though it recognizes campus clubs are an integral part of student life, the Student Association has chosen to exclude us from having an official campus club simply because it disagrees with our views,” said Christian Naggar, president of Speak for the Weak.
“The actions of the Student Association against this student group amount to discrimination and a complete disregard for free expression on campus,” stated Marty Moore, staff lawyer with the Justice Centre.