Kicked off campus. Denied funding. Harassment. Your displays forcibly taken down, ripped apart, or blocked. Threats of arrest and jail time. These are the stakes. This is what you will face if you want to remain true to pro-life values and true to yourself while a student at a Canadian post-secondary school. This is, of course, no surprise. We live in a broken world after all. We live in a world where the truth will be rejected and where we will be rejected for proclaiming the truth. Students on campuses across Canada are supposed to learn different perspectives, be creative, and share their ideas.
But many of these students are persecuted for the positions they hold. This is the reality of the twenty-first century university campus in Canada.
Campus Shut Down
Some campuses censor students and cite the graphic imagery on some of their signs. Some campuses dislike the pamphlets that are being handed out. A lot of the time people take offence to the pro-life position itself and will do anything they can to prevent it from being shared.
Sometimes counter-protesters show up with their own signs to block pro-life displays. This happens even when pro-life clubs have approval from the university itself to host their display.
There are also security issues. When university security services are not busy ticketing or arresting pro-life students for their on-campus witness, they often stand on the sidelines while other students tear down pro-life displays.
Sometimes pro-life students are forced to provide their own security for events or foot an exorbitant bill for university security services, thousands of dollars that no student can be expected to have in their bank account. What appalls me is when pro-life students set up something like the We Need a Law flag display, a demonstration of various pink and blue flags representing the number of abortions in Canada per year, only to have other students take the university-approved display apart. Security stands by, afraid to “take sides.”
Corrupt Student Unions
Viewpoints are most often restricted by student unions. Student unions abuse their power and pass motions like the one at the University of Ottawa that states: “No SFUO [Student Federation of the University of Ottawa] resources, space, recognition, or funding will be allocated to enhance groups/individuals with the primary/sole purpose of pro-life activities.”
Motions like these make it clear that censorship on campus is not about the images — it is about censoring the pro-life position itself. The moment when restrictions become such that no space on the university campus will be given for pro-life activities, is when you know that free speech no longer exists.
It is also motions like these that make one wonder if people even know what the term “pro-life” means. Being “pro-life” is not just a stance that one has; it is an all-encompassing way of understanding and interacting with the world.
“Pro-life” — More than Just a Label
Being “pro-life” means treating all people with dignity from conception until natural death. It means standing up and speaking out when this dignity is being trampled upon. It means respecting the right to life of preborn babies. It means caring about our toddlers and helping mothers, fathers, and families. It means lifting people up and preventing bullying at our schools. It means that even if we do not respect someone’s ideas, we still treat the person with respect. It means embracing those with visible disabilities and less visible disabilities, like mental illness. Being pro-life means respecting the elderly. It means advocating for palliative care. It means being with people during every step of their lives and loving each person unconditionally.
In essence, by censoring pro-life students, universities are effectively degrading the concept of human dignity. Human dignity is much deeper than one’s physical appearance or capabilities. This is something pro-life people grasp and seek to promote, while corrupt student unions turn a blind eye and shut down these efforts.
This censorship is becoming common practice in the Canadian government as well. Look no farther than the Liberal Party and their Canada Summer Jobs Program attestation or the evolving bubble zone laws across the country. I worry for democracy. But I do not worry that pro-lifers will be silenced. We will persevere in the midst of suffering because we know what is at stake.
For more information about freedom of speech on university campuses, visit the Campus Freedom Index website. The index ranks universities and student unions by their policies and practices.
photo courtesy of NCLN