B.C. top court rules against pro-life student club at University of Victoria

Court rejects pro-life club's appeal in failed charter argument

VANCOUVER — A free-speech battle by opponents of abortion at the University of Victoria has been shut down by B.C.’s highest court, a decision that civil liberties advocates say is troubling.

In a unanimous ruling, the B.C. Court of Appeal rejected arguments by a pro-life student club claiming the university must consider freedom of expression when restricting use of common space on campus.

The court found the charter did not apply, but the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said the judgment did not consider broader implications.

“It so happens the group that was told it wasn’t allowed to speak and to express political opinions on campus was a pro-life group, but it could have been anyone,” said the association’s executive director Josh Paterson.

“We don’t think it’s right that universities should not have to consider students’ free expression and freedom of assembly in making those kinds of decisions.”

The group, called Youth Protecting Youth, was approved for a demonstration by the university in January 2013. But an official revoked the permit after learning the student society had sanctioned the group for allegedly harassing students.

The group held the demonstration anyway, in a protest they called a “choice chain.”

The university responded by suspending the club’s outdoor space booking privileges for one year and warned members that any future disregard of its directions could result in discipline.

Youth Protecting Youth responded by launching a legal challenge, with its president and the civil liberties association arguing the university’s response infringed on the group’s charter rights.

A panel of three B.C. Appeal Court judges disagreed.

They sided with a lower-court ruling that examined the university’s scope as a private organization, saying that “when the university books space for non-academic extra-curricular use, it is not implementing a specific government policy or program.”

However, Paterson said the civil liberties association believes universities making such decisions must take people’s charter rights into consideration.

“These types of decisions, we say, should not be charter-free zones,” Paterson said.

“We are … troubled by it and we’re going to be looking at it to see what should happen,” he said of the decision.

Representatives for Youth Protecting Youth did not respond to request for comment.

A university spokesman declined comment, saying the decision is being reviewed.

The case remains open for appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Victoria Police host Faith-Based Safety Forum in light of recent religious attacks

More than 35 faith-based leaders voice concerns, air questions

Still barriers to abortion access on Vancouver Island

Experts say transportation, support, doctors can be barriers to accessing abortion

Kelowna toddler suffers cracked skull after fall from balcony

Neighbour who found the two-year-old boy said he has a bump the size of a golf ball on his head

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

Support growing for orphaned Okanagan child after father dies in highway crash

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

Baby boom seniors putting pressure on B.C. long-term care: report

B.C. leads Canada in growth of dementia, dependence on care

Pipeline protester chimes in on Justin Trudeau’s B.C. fundraising speech

The government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion

UPDATED: B.C. man says he’ll take People’s Party lawsuit as far as he can

Federal judge shut down Satinder Dhillon’s ‘nonsensical’ motion to bar use of PPC name in byelection

Canada stripping citizenship from Chinese man over alleged marriage fraud

The move comes amid severely strained relations between Ottawa and Beijing

Most Read