University of Alberta demands $17,500 from pro-life students to express opinions on campus
EDMONTON: The University of Alberta has imposed a $17,500 “security fee” on a student group seeking to host a pro-life event on campus. On January 11, 2016, UAlberta Pro-Life, a registered campus club, applied for University authorization to set up a stationary educational display on campus on February 23 and 24, 2016. Only eleven days prior to the scheduled event, the University of Alberta notified the students that they would need to pay $17,500 in “security fees” to proceed with their peaceful educational display. In its communication the University demands that pro-life students pay for the wages of security guards and police, and costs of barricading the venue, to deal with the potential misconduct of people who would violate the University’s Code of Student Behaviour by obstructing, disrupting, shouting down and shutting down the pro-life message on campus.
“It’s not fair that we, as law-abiding and tuition-paying students, cannot express our views peacefully on campus. Our club can’t possibly raise $17,500. But even if we could raise that amount, it’s not fair that we have to pay for the illegal and destructive behaviour of other people,” stated Amberlee Nicol, President of UAlberta Pro-Life.
In March of 2015, UAlberta Pro-Life held a similar event, prior to which then-President Indira Samarasekara issued a public statement that the University must facilitate and protect the peaceful expression of all views, regardless of popularity. In defiance of the President’s clear statement about free expression and the rule of law, a student-led mob blockaded the pro-life club’s display, in violation if the University’s Code of Student Behaviour. Although the University had had advance notice that a mob was being organized to block the display, and although Dr. Samarasekera had warned that any misbehaviour would be investigated and prosecuted, the University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) did nothing to stop the blockade of the Club’s display. UAPS did not photograph or seek to identify any blockading student, even though the Code clearly prohibits students from disrupting or obstructing University-related functions. Presented with voluminous photographic and other evidence after the event, UAPS refused to investigate or prosecute any of the violators.
“Aside from the unfairness of demanding that we pay money for the illegal behaviour of other people, we know that campus security condones blatant violations of the Code of Student Behaviour. Campus security will just stand back and watch, while our free expression rights are trampled into the ground,” stated Cameron Wilson, Treasurer of UAlberta Pro-Life.
The Justice Centre is acting on behalf of UAlberta Pro-Life to challenge the $17,500 security assessment. In a letter sent to the University, staff lawyer Jay Cameron explains: “The discussion of ideas is a right in our society, particularly on a university campus. If everyone was required to have security around them in order to say something others might disagree with there would be no free discourse.”