No trial for U of C students in pro-life display dispute
Charges stayed against students
Alanna Campbell, leftand Asia Strezynski from Campus Pro-Life hold up their summons February 2, 2009 charging them with trespassing following a controversial anti-abortion demonstration at the University of Calgary campus. Photograph by: Dean Bicknell/Canwest News Service, np
CALGARY - Six members of an antiabortion group that defied University of Calgary officials by refusing to alter a campus billboard campaign depicting dead fetuses will not go to trial on charges of trespassing.
The Crown stayed the charges against Campus Pro-Life members, five of whom were U of C students, after determining there wasn't enough evidence to proceed with the prosecution, said Alberta Justice spokesman David Dear.
"It confirms our position that we do have the right to be on our own campus," said club president Leah Hallman.
Hallman said she was prepared for the fight in court, which was scheduled for Wednesday, but relieved to learn the charges were dropped.
"We will continue to be the voice of the unborn. We'll continue to present the issue peacefully . . . in order to win people's hearts or minds," she said.
In a statement released to the media, the university said it "remains committed to ensuring the safety and security of campus and will take some time to reflect on this development. The safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and faculty are paramount issues."
The statement also said the university has tried to compromise with Campus Pro-Life, but without success.
"The organization's statements and actions to date have made it clear that it is not interested in a discussion or debate," the statement said. "Rather, it is seeking publicity and using the media to advance its objectives. The university will not engage with CPL on this basis."
The decision by the Crown to drop the case was called a victory for free speech by the group's lawyer.
"I think free speech is like a seamless garment, that if you can suppress the peaceful expression on a university campus, in fact it does have implications on every street corner in Canada," said John Carpay, of the Canadian Constitution Foundation.
The charges stem from a dispute between university officials and Campus Pro-Life over its Genocide Awareness Project. Images of dead fetuses were displayed and compared to genocide casualties and Holocaust victims. The images were on 14 boards and were set up near the university's library and science theatres, which are popular gathering places on campus.
Though the two sides were locked in battle over the displays for some time, the university pressed to have members of the group charged with trespassing after they refused to turn the billboards inward in November 2008.
Despite facing trespassing charges, the group has continued to erect its displays, most recently in September.
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Article sourced from: http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/trial+students+life+display+dispute/2174547/story.html
A victory for free speech on campus
The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) today announced that the Alberta Crown Prosecutors' Office has decided to stay the trespassing charges which the
The students took the position that they were not in violation of any University rule, policy, bylaw or regulation. The students also argued that the University had no qualms about the display on campus of large colour photos showing the results of torture perpetrated by Chinese Communists on adherents of the Falun Gong religious movement. The students claim that the Falun Gong torture photos were merely one example of a myriad of obscene, offensive, and disturbing expression which the University tolerates on campus. The University's own website promises that, as part of its respect for "the rich diversity of our learners," there will be no discrimination or harassment on the basis of various grounds including race, religion, and political beliefs.
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