No trial for U of C students in pro-life display dispute

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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.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

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 University of Calgary had pressed against its own students.   The Alberta Provincial Court trial had been scheduled to take place on November 4, 2009.   Earlier this year, the University of Calgary charged its own students with trespassing when the students refused to comply with a University demand that they set up their Genocide Awareness Project signs in a circle facing inwards, such that no passersby could see the signs.   "The Crown's decision is good news for free speech," stated John Carpay, one of the lawyers representing the students, and Executive Director of the CCF.   "The Canadian Constitution Foundation takes no position on abortion, but we defend free speech for all Canadians, especially on the campus of a taxpayer-funded university," added Carpay.   Since 2006, the Campus Pro-Life students had set up their provocative signs on campus twice per year, in a circle facing outwards.  Large colour photos of aborted fetuses were among the images used to generate discussion and heated debate.  The University of Calgary took the initiative to post its own signs nearby, declaring that the display was permitted under the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms Section 2 guarantee of free speech.   In 2008, after the Genocide Awareness Project had been displayed on campus without incident on several occasions, the University declared that "security concerns" necessitated censorship, and told the Calgary Police that the display "would trigger violence."   The University's lawyers warned the students that a failure to comply with this new demand to turn the signs inwards would result in trespassing charges, not to mention penalties of suspension or even expulsion for "non-academic misconduct."

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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Jim Blake

All glory goes to the living God, maker of the heavens and the earth, for He alone is worthy of all glory and honor and praise. I consider the sufferings of this age not worthy to be compared to what is to come for those who place their faith in the King of kings and persevere in faith, day by day, until the end.

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;

To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.

Psalm 103:11-18

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