Lots of people have requested a bit of a summary regarding McGill University pro-life club Choose Life's recent club status suspension and info on how to contact the students' society executives. At the Students' Society (SSMU) Council meeting November 12, the student representatives and executives voted against a motion to outright revoke Choose Life's club status. That basis for this motion was that our events target and harass women, and that we spread false information. Specifically, at the Silent No More Awareness Campaign event, there were pamphlets available that cited the link between abortion and breast cancer and one of the sites listed in the footnote has since changed its information to say that no such link exists. Thus, our opponents argue that we are threatening students' health and safety.
Another motion was brought up, and passed 16-11, to suspend our club status until we work with the Student Equity Committee to agree on a way we can share our message while working within the SSMU's governing policies. Of course, this presumes that we have breached them with our past events in some way. In addition to the reasons listed above in support of the other motion, the Echoes of the Holocaust event and use of graphic images were of particular concern. Presumably, they would like us to agree not to use graphic images again. I haven't met with them again yet, so I don't know exactly what other limitations they would like us to agree to. Among the priveledges that come with club status is the ability to book rooms in the students' society builidng and elsewhere on campus. We have never recieved direct funding from the SSMU (and since the Echoes of the Holocaust event, can never do so).
Here's the concluding part of Margaret Somerville's reaction to the suspension, as published in the Montreal Gazette on Nov. 20.
...the MSA president said that Choose Life members’ freedom of speech could be restricted, because they “were using questionable statistics from questionable sources” to make the case against abortion. So, the MSA president is saying that if we don’t like the statistics or the sources some people use, we need not bring evidence to rebut their claims; rather, we may intentionally silence them.
I thought that was called censorship. It’s deeply concerning that anyone would imagine, even for a second, that challengeable statistics or sources constitute a valid justification for shutting down free speech, let alone someone who is the president of the students’ association at McGill.
MSA spokespeople say they want, as we all do, a safe environment and peace on the campus. But, in a democracy, “good” oldfashioned Maoist “harmony” achieved through suppression of any dissenting voices cannot achieve that.
The National Post's Barbara Kay also had something to say about the suspension.
Here is the contact info for the SSMU executive:
Ivan Neilson, President
Rebecca Dooley, VP University Affairs
Alexandra Brown, VP Internal
Sebastian Ronderos-Morgan, VP External
Sarah Olle, VP Clubs & Services
Jose Diaz, VP Finance & Operations
Whereas the CBC hasn't been, I've been unforgiveably quiet about recent events involving Choose Life , McGill's pro-life club, whose status as an official club with a small budget and room reservation priviledges and other perks was recently suspended by McGill's student union as retaliation for the club's Oct. 6 invitation of Jojo Ruba of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical reform (see the Choose Life McGill information page for the backstory).
Basically, I held off because this kind of censorship and illeberality coming from student unions all around Canada (and in the US) is getting so regular and so predictable it's downright boring.
Now the McGill student union are asking Choose Life to consult with them on what events and what opinions they can express so that they can respect the "equity policy" and gain their club status back. Note to Student Union members: an equity policy cannot enforce equality of opinion on any matter, especially moral, especially at a university whose mandate is to seek truth through vigourous debate.
What hogwash--what absolute craziness. And this is a student council: these kids are going to want to be MPs and leaders some day. Very scary indeed.
I don't know what the solution is. These students are kids, after all. They can't be expected to grasp the sublime irony contained in the act of censoring a group while simultaneously attending an eminent place of learning such as McGill, a place where maximum debate and maximum free speech is expected.
I don't expect the kids to understand, but I expect the grownups to do something. For while McGill authorities think everything is ok, under the surface, working at the student level and the union levels is an insiduous nexus of individuals and groups who aren't satisfied with free speech and open debate but want to force feed their views and squelch dissent. If from the right there's a creationism lobby infiltrating centres of learning and tainting scientific debate about evolution, from the left there's a relativism lobby infiltrating universities and tainting rigourous debate about moral issues. And that has to worry McGill authorities, who know that the credibility of an institution such as theirs rides on its committment to, and delivery of, an environment where open debate is not only possible but welcome. And they're far from that situation right now. We have documentary proof of that.
What to do? Concerned alumni should band together and pressure McGill authorities to act on this.
And I encourage Choose Life to re-invite Mr Ruba, just like McGill president Heather Munroe Blum encouraged them to do. I know all this nonsense has been hard on Choose Life members, who, at the end of the day, only wanted to help student mothers and their babies, but the fight that they got is theirs to fight. And whether life is respected and future children make it out of the womb depends in large part on whether the pro-life message makes it to university students' ears. Choose Life members, you have been given a good and noble fight, please take it up, as burdensome and tedious as it may be.
A final thing: is there no debating society or some other (small "l") liberal club at McGill? What about the Conservative McGill club? Would it not be appropriate for them to take up the freedom of speech issue, inviting Mr. Ruba over if Choose Life can't? How about forming a coalition of free-speech loving clubs at McGill: they can all host Jojo Ruba together in solidarity with Choose Life; they don't even have to agree on abortion, just on free speech.
October 6 Choose Life McGill Pro-life Presentation Disrupted by Protesters: QLC was there to videotape it all
Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform representative Jojo Ruba's Oct. 6 2009 presentation at McGill University, hosted by Choose Life McGill, was hijacked for over 2 hours tonight by pro-abortion protesters. As the presentation began, protesters shouted and sang children's songs. They then crowded around the vacant podium (Mr. Ruba having absconded) and continued singing for the better part of an hour, at which point police arrived. Two protesters were taken, but many were left behind. When the police left, they resumed and disrupted the presentation (which had fitfully resumed) until the two hour mark, at which point event organizers were informed by campus officials that time had run out and the room had to be closed for the night. Protesters then filed out, along with most of the audience. A police officer showed up again, answering some questions for the campus media.
A sad day for free speech, and a sad day for the unborn—but displays like last night's show that the truth that the unborn have an inalienable right to life is so manifest that the only way to oppose it is by physical force. And truth being stronger and more persistent than physical force, we'll surely see a time (maybe not in our lifetimes, but surely there will be a time) when that truth is recognized, cherished, celebrated.
Part of the good news is this: at the time of printing, this video has so far garnered over 15,000 views on YouTube. Hundreds of comments have also been posted, overwhelmingly favouring Choose Life and the pro-life position in general. Furthermore, the presenter, José Ruba of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, had this to say: “There is good news. At least three students who were not pro-life came and actually dialogued with me afterwards. And even one of the protesters came up to me and said he wished he had heard the rest of the presentation. And I know many pro-lifers in the crowd grew even more passionate about speaking for life after this.”
To see the video, go here.
UPDATE: In defiance of SSMU's puerile maneuvering, Choose Life McGill will be hosting Jojo Ruba's "Echoes of the Holocaust" on Oct. 6, at 6pm, at Leacock 232 as planned!
Choose Life McGill, a pro-life club at McGill university, recently invited José (Jojo) Ruba from the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform to conduct a talk on Oct. 6, at 6pm, entitled "Echoes of the Holocaust", a presentation in which Mr. Ruba argues that there are striking parallels between abortion and the Jewish Holocaust. This was the same talk that was shouted down when it was presented at Saint-Mary's university in Halifax.
When the invitation was announced, McGill student union members began maneuvering to stop the presentation. Members of that same union had tried and failed to strip Choose Life of its official club status in the past.
Last night a motion was voted on to the effect that the McGill student union condemn the presentation and ask McGill authorities to keep the presentation from taking place. The motion passed overwhelmingly. To top it all off, the motion was amended to include the following: if Choose Life were to present the lecture anyway, it would forever lose club funding.
Choose Life president Natalie Fohl seems to have decided not to present the lecture, stating that Choose Life members corporately decided that it was "not a good idea to present this lecture at this time."
Mr. Ruba's presentation will go ahead anyway, Fohl said, hosted by herself personally or by another entity to be determined, at a location to be determined.
This is just another instance of a recent, troubling pattern of campus censorship...