Oct 30th, 2017
OTTAWA: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca) has written to the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) to demand that it reverse its decision to revoke club status from uOttawa Students for Life (SFL).
SFL requested club status in the fall semester and received an email on Friday, October 13, 2017, notifying SFL that it had been approved as a club by the SFUO. However, one week later, on Friday, October 20, 2017, SFL received an email from the SFUO stating that SFL had been removed from the SFUO Clubs System. The email stated that the decision to revoke club status was “due to the ways in which your mandate is in contention with the SFUO’s principles.”
SFL has been a registered campus club for the past 10 years. During this time, SFL members have peacefully held events and shared their views on life issues. SFL seeks to promote the value of all human life from conception to natural death, and engages other students in discussion and debate, consistent with the purpose of the university.
This decision to revoke club status follows a prior SFUO decision to censor SFL. On Thursday, September 28, 2017, an executive of the SFUO ordered SFL club members to stop tabling in the Jock Turcot University Centre on campus, despite SFL having used the proper channels to book space for the tabling. SFUO attempted to justify its decision by citing unspecified complaints received about SFL. SFL was further informed that their club goes against unspecified SFUO policy, implying that SFL’s views on life issues could not be expressed there. The SFL members who were tabling were told that University of Ottawa Protection Services would be called if they did not leave the Jock Turcot University Centre, and so they left, less than 45 minutes into their tabling event.
Recognition of club status from the SFUO is crucial for a student group to engage with other students at the University of Ottawa. Without it, students cannot access space and resources available to other student clubs and funded through mandatory SFUO fees.
In its letter, the Justice Centre calls out SFUO’s decision, stating:
The decision discriminates against SFL based on its pro-life opinions and beliefs. This decision violates the principles of natural justice, SFUO’s own Constitution and policies, and the fundamental Canadian values of freedom of expression and association, which are crucially important at academic institutions.
Students for Life club secretary Rachel Leistra expressed her disappointment with SFUO’S latest attempt to silence her group, stating:
SFUO’s repeated hostility towards our club this semester is preventing us from having a voice on campus. As students of the University of Ottawa we deserve to have a voice as does every other student. Denying us club status prevents us from having equal access to our own student union’s resources.
The Justice Centre’s letter to SFUO concludes:
We demand that the Constitutional Committee of the Board of Administration of the SFUO exercise its authority to correct the unlawful decision, and that the SFUO return club status to SFL and its position in the SFUO Clubs System no later than November 3, 2017.