Dec 30th, 2013
In 2013, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca) has seen successful results from our efforts to defend the constitutional freedoms and human rights of each and every Canadian.
Thanks to the support of Canadians like you, who are committed to freedom and justice, our efforts are paying off!
Defending students against bullying and censorship
The Justice Centre provides pro bono legal representation to students facing a challenge to their constitutional freedoms on campus. Often, spineless campus bureaucrats will back down from threats of censorship if students are equipped with a credible legal defense. That is why the Justice Centre has written on behalf of students at nine universities in 2013, challenging the administration to uphold free expression rights. The success of our efforts is evident:
- The student union at Brandon University refused to recognize a campus pro-life club throughout the 2012-2013 school year, but reversed its position in September, in response to a legal warning letter;
- The student union at Trent University also reversed its initial decision to refuse club status to a campus pro-life group, in response to our legal representation of the campus club
- The Simon Fraser University administration backed down from its censorship demand that students set up their display with signs turned inwards, in response to a legal warning letter;
- The University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) backed down from its attempt to ban a pro-life student group, after receiving a legal warning letter from our lawyers.
Thanks to your support of these efforts, students in Canada are able to engage in the free exchange of ideas without fear of bullying and intimidation by university and student union officials. Consider the testimony of Catherine Dubois, president of Brandon University Students for Life, when she wrote to the Justice Centre in early December:
Thanks to you, we have had three months of free speech on campus at Brandon University …
I don’t know if there will ever be a sufficient way to express my deep appreciation for all your hard work and dedication.
Students like Catherine cannot afford to pay a lawyer to defend against the censorship, bullying and intimidation that many universities and student unions engage in. Your support for the Justice Centre ensures that these young students receive the legal representation they need and deserve.
Campus Freedom Index
The Justice Centre released its third annual 2013 Campus Freedom Index in September. The Index measures the state of free speech at Canada’s universities. Surveying 45 campuses across Canada—our most comprehensive and expansive Index to date—this report chronicles the ever-growing threats facing free speech on campus.
The Justice Centre is shining a light on those threats, and we’re fighting back.
The Justice Centre’s Campus Freedom Index has prompted two student unions to fix speech codes and better defend campus free speech in 2013. The Carleton University Students Association (CUSA) changed its policies to support free speech on campus for all views, finalizing the changes in June of 2013. The motion to reform speech codes expressly mentions the Campus Freedom Index as a catalyst for these changes.
The University of Saskatchewan Students Union (USSU) passed a Free Speech Policy in March which commits the union to refrain from content-based censorship against students, after consulting with JCCF about how it could improve the state of free speech on campus.
While universities have been less inclined to reform speech codes, ourCampus Freedom Index is nevertheless affecting them—in their wallets! Colin Campbell gave to his alma mater, McGill University, for 35 years, until he discovered that McGill earned a dismal ‘D’ average in JCCF’s Campus Freedom Index. Upon discovering that his alma mater was failing in its own obligation to protect free expression and academic freedom on campus, Colin chose to cease his giving to McGill until the university improved its grade. He has applied the same standard to his giving habits at other universities, having cut off the University of Calgary due to its record of silencing unpopular views.
Informing donors like Colin about the true state of free speech on campus is just one of the ways the Campus Freedom Index is making an impact. Attention from the media—more than 40 newspapers, radio and television stations across Canada—has allowed the Justice Centre to spread its findings to a wider audience than ever before.
The Justice Centre’s constitutional challenge for access to health care was heard by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench on October 17, 2013. Alberta dentist Darcy Allen suffered with severe back pain on a wait list for surgery for years.
Unwilling to wait a further 18-months for surgery inside the government’s health care monopoly, he paid $77,000 out-of-pocket for surgery in the U.S. Consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Chaoulli, Darcy seeks a declaration that the Government’s ban on private medical insurance violates his right to life and security of the person. A decision is expected some time in 2014. The Justice Centre is the first organization in Canada to have secured a court hearing to extend the Supreme Court’s Chaoulli decision (“access to a waiting list is not access to health care”) to a province outside Quebec.
Read more about Darcy Allen’s battle with the government health care monopoly
Wilson v. University of Calgary
On April 17 the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench heard 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. JCCF president John Carpay has been representing these students since 2007. The JCCF’s Court application seeks to overturn the guilty verdict. A decision is pending. (Photo: from left) President John Carpay represented University of Calgary students Cristina Perri, Cameron Wilson and Asia Strezynski at a hearing of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, April 17 2013.
Free expression at airports
On July 15, the Alberta Provincial Court upheld the right of peaceful protest in the public sections of the Calgary International Airport. John Carpay has represented eight young Canadians since October of 2011, when the airport charged them with trespassing for having peacefully expressed their views.
Judge Fradsham acquitted the defendants in R. v. Booyink, noting that they were peaceful, well-behaved, and did not interfere with any of the airport’s operations.
The Calgary Airport Authority has now applied for an injunction to prohibit the protesters from attending the Airport, making the same argument which the Crown made in R. v. Booyink and which were rejected by Judge Fradsham. The Justice Centreargued this case in Court on October 30.
Free Speech Wall campaign
In 2013, we launched a new campaign to build free speech walls at Canadian universities.
Within 24 hours of the our first free speech wall going up at Carleton University, a student vandalized the display and removed it from its location in the main atrium. The Carleton Students for Liberty, which co-hosted the wall event with the Justice Centre, was not long deterred and quickly rebuilt the Carleton free speech wall. This prompted national attention, Canada-wide media coverage including the National Post and Sun TV, and a campus-wide discussion about the importance of campus free speech.
Students at York University demonstrated the power of free speech in encouraging discussion and tolerance during their free speech wall event held on March 18 and 19.
Queen’s Students for Liberty hosted a free speech wall event on campus on April 2. That evening, the free speech wall was shut down by the university’s Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Arig Girgrah, citing unspecified concerns about offensive content. A second wall was shut down again and confiscated by Queen’s University officials, who refused to provide any examples of speech they considered “offensive” and were unable to explain which university policies (if any) were violated by the free speech wall.
Queen’s Students for Liberty successfully held another free speech wall event on November 4, and were relieved that the university did not try to shut down their display once more.
On October 24, the student group Canadian Advocates for Freedom and Liberty (CAFL) raised a free speech wall at the University of Calgary, co-sponsored by the Justice Centre. The wall was full of text within hours of being set up, and served to educate students and faculty about the importance of free expression to our democracy and the pursuit of truth.
We held our first ever essay contest in 2013, receiving 79 submissions from university students across the country. The question for the contest was “Positive rights vs. negative rights: which should prevail, and why?” Judges were impressed with the quality of writing and intelligent arguments presented by these young people. First place ($1,000) was awarded to Christopher Nguyen of McGill University, second place ($500) to Lawrence David of McGill University, and third place ($250) to Janessa Williamson of Wilfrid Laurier University.
We are funded entirely by the voluntary donations of freedom-minded Canadians who agree with the Centre’s goals, mission, vision and activities. The centre is independent and non-partisan, and receives no funding from any government or government organization.
Please support our work and allow us to continue defending the constitutional freedoms of vulnerable Canadians. The Justice Centre is a registered charity (charitable registration number 817174865-RR0001) and issues official tax receipts to donors for donations of $50 or more.
P.S. Donations must be made by December 31, 2013 in order to qualify for the 2013 tax season. Make your tax-deductible contribution securely online.
Thank you for your support!