Victory at Kwantlen: student union backs down from gag order

At Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the Kwantlen Student Association (“KSA”) has been hostile to free expression since 2012, when it refused to register the pro-life club Protectores Vitae.   Students cannot hold events, invite speakers, or communicate effectively if they are not registered as a campus club, so the KSA decision effectively silenced the pro-life view on campus.  The KSA changed its mind in December of 2012 after receiving a legal warning letter from the JCCF, threatening court action to overturn the KSA’s illegal decision.


But in October of 2013, the KSA introduced a new pro-choice policy requiring that “any material displayed in the Union building should adhere to the principle of ‘safe space’ … to ‘ensure an accessible environment in which every student feels comfortable, safe and able to get involved in all aspects of the organisation free from intimidation or judgement”.  In other words: the KSA can censor the expression of any opinion which the KSA thinks might make students feel “uncomfortable.”  This effectively prevents all campus groups from promoting any political, religious, cultural or moral perspective if the KSA’s elected representatives disagree with it, simply by declaring that a particular opinion will make someone feel “uncomfortable”.

On November 28, the JCCF sent a warning letter to the KSA, demanding that this provision be withdrawn from the new pro-choice policy, and threatened legal action if the policy were used to discriminate against Protectores Vitae or any other campus club.  In January 2014, the KSA passed new motions to change the policy, removing the KSA’s power to discriminate against campus clubs and controversial opinions.

It appears, for now, that Kwantlen Polytechnic University is once again a safe space for free speech.