Students sue University of Alberta over free speech

  • New court action challenges U of A over condoning vandalism, obstruction, disruption, and other violations of Code of Student Behaviour directed at UAlberta Pro-life
  • U of A condoned censorship of pro-life speech on campus in 2014-15 school year
  • U of A unwilling to commit to upholding free speech on campus in 2015-16

EDMONTON: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) today announced that it is representing three University of Alberta students in a court action seeking to protect free speech on campus for a small student pro-life club.  Amberlee Nicol, Kianna Owen, Cameron Wilson, and UAlberta Pro-Life are applicants in an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench application for an injunction to require the University of Alberta to uphold and enforce its own Code of Student Behaviour. An application for an interim injunction will be heard at the Law Courts in Edmonton, in Justice Chambers, on Wednesday October 7, 2015.

As explained in a filed affidavit sworn by Amberlee Nicol, throughout the 2014-15 school year, pro-life students repeatedly saw their posters torn down, whenever they tried to advertise their events.  When the U of A finally found one student guilty of this theft and vandalism, she was not required to pay any restitution to UAlberta Pro-Life for the destruction of its property.

golifeprotestIn March 2015, UAlberta Pro-Life’s opponents used Facebook to publicize their plans to obstruct and disrupt a pro-life display, a campus event authorized by the U of A.  Campus security did not warn any members of this online mob that their planned behaviour was expressly prohibited by the Code of Student Behaviour, not to mention the Criminal Code of Canada.  Nor was disciplinary action taken against those who violated the U of A’s own rules against encouraging the commission of offences.  When the online mob showed up to physically block and disrupt the pro-life display, campus security stood by passively and watched.  In spite of clear U of A rules that prohibit the obstruction of university-related functions, not a single student has been found guilty of participating in this mob censorship.

Finally, the University slapped UAlberta Pro-Life with an invoice for “security fees” for a subsequent, low-key classroom event, just because other students might show up and physically disrupt the expression of unpopular ideas on campus.

“The University of Alberta has condoned the suppression of our free expression rights on campus throughout the 2014-15 school year,” stated Amberlee Nicol, a third-year education student and president of UAlberta Pro-Life.

“The University admits it has a duty to facilitate discussion and debate on campus, yet the University knowingly condones blatant violations of the Code of Student Behaviour that are directed against us and our student club,” continued Nicol.

“The people who tore down our posters, threatened publicly on Facebook to disrupt our events, and then physically obstructed our campus display, would they be OK with their own opinions being silenced?” asked Kianna Owen, a second-year nursing student and the secretary of UAlberta Pro-Life.

“The University’s choice to knowingly condone the violation of the Code of Student Behaviour sends a very dangerous message to all students at the University of Alberta, that silencing people you disagree with is acceptable conduct,” stated lawyer John Carpay, president of the JCCF.