December 28, 2006
Carleton University supports censorship...
Date: December 4, 2006
For immediate release
CAMPUS PC'S CONDEMN CUSA'S ATTEMPTS TO CURTAIL FREE SPEECH:
The Ontario Campus PCs are outraged that the Carleton University Students Association (CUSA) is attempting to curb free speech on campuses. CUSA seeks to control diversity of thought through a recent motion that states "no CUSA resources, space, recognition or funding be allocated for anti-choice purposes."
"I'm pro-choice, but I also believe in the rights to freedom of speech and association," said Campus PC President Brendan McLaughlin. "To ban something as simple as a group setting up a table with pro-life literature is a drastic measure."
Pro-life groups have peacefully existed at Carleton and other campuses for years. Adopting the CUSA motion on December 5 would not only change that, it would also set a precedent of suppressing free speech.
"Universities are supposed to encourage debate, and CUSA should uphold that ideal," said Campus PC Policy Director and Carleton Conservative Derek Fildebrandt. "CUSA seeks to deny some of its members equal treatment because it fears a debate on a controversial topic."
The Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) is defending itself from allegations by several student groups that claim a motion to restrict funding and student space for anti-choice groups is a freedom of speech violation.
Second-year student Garnett Genuis organized a petition that opposes the denial of club status to groups who disagree with CUSA’s political stance, and he claims the motion is a violation of free speech. The Womyn’s Centre is also circulating a petition to “support a woman’s right to choose” and support the CUSA motion.
“This is a freedom of speech issue,” said Genuis. “Don’t believe what CUSA tells you when they say people can have the same opportunity to express their opinion even if they don’t have club status.”
Shawn Menard, CUSA president, said the motion does not violate the rights of students.
“What people don’t understand is that this has nothing to do with the right to free speech,” Menard said. “Every individual has the right to free speech in our spaces, and that’s under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Menard said CUSA is well within its rights to put forward the motion.
Genuis said many students are confused about CUSA’s role, and he said he hopes students will demand reform when they realize that CUSA is not a student government.
A document distributed to CUSA councillors by Katy McIntyre, CUSA vice-president (student services), states that CUSA is a political organization and “not a student government.”
"Hopefully this will inspire Carleton students to take a stance and say we do need a student government on campus to represent our interests and not just a political lobby group," Genuis said. “Given the right amount of pressure, there might be the potential to shift that mandate back to where it should be,” he said.
“We have the ability as a political organization mandated by students to come out and take political positions on things,” said Menard.
Menard said there is some confusion surrounding the motion, which would only affect groups whose primary goal is to criminalize abortion, and not religious groups.
Sarah Fletcher, president of Carleton University Lifeline, said her group’s goal is not to re-criminalize abortion.
“Nowhere in our mandate does it say that we wish to make abortion illegal or to force our views on any woman and tell them they cannot have an abortion,” Fletcher said.
She said that, to her knowledge, there are no pro-life groups on campus whose mandate is to make abortion illegal.
Menard said the motion is currently being amended for clarity, and he said with these changes he is confident the motion will pass.
Fletcher said that if the motion passes, legal action against CUSA might be a last resort possibility. But Menard said he has spoken with CUSA’s lawyer and that their motion has legal legs to stand on.
The motion was put forward by McIntyre on behalf of the Womyn’s Centre at a Nov. 21 CUSA council meeting. Council will debate and vote on the motion Dec. 5.
The university respects the “separate decision-making process of student organizations,” according to a statement from university administration, but at the same time Carleton as an institution “is not bound by the expressed views of the Carleton University Students’ Association or other student organizations.”