Last year, the Canadian Federation of Students passed a resolution upholding the right of student unions at member schools to deny funding and office space to anti-choice groups. This week, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association sent a letter to the CFS objecting to that resolution.
Denying campus-club status to groups that oppose abortion infringes on freedom of speech, says a civil liberties group, wading into a dispute that in recent months has pitted several university student associations against religious groups.
In a letter, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is objecting to a resolution supporting student unions that denies funding and office space for anti-abortion groups.
The letter was sent last week to the Canadian Federation of Students, said CCLA general counsel Alan Borovoy.
"We decided to weigh in on this, a rather disquieting development in the university environment, which is supposed to encourage debate," Mr. Borovoy said in an interview.
A CFS spokesman, Joel Duff, said the resolution, adopted by federation delegates a year ago, lends moral support to student unions who are opposed to funding anti-abortion groups. But, he said, CFS member associations are autonomous and are not bound by the motion.
Mr. Duff noted that the student unions' opposition to financing was upheld last fall by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
A group calling itself Students for Life had taken the student union of UBC Okanagan to court, arguing that denying them funding was a form of religious discrimination. In endorsing a previous ruling by the provincial human-rights commission, the B.C. Supreme Court rejected the group's contention. Mr. Justice R.S.K. Wong said religious freedom didn't mean forcing every student to fund a person's views.
Mr. Borovoy said his association has a "strongly pro-choice orientation," but also believes strongly in freedom of expression.
"What is there about these anti-abortion groups that warrant such special denigration?" the CCLA letter said, adding that "the proper response is argument, not censorship."
But Mr. Duff said student unions have finite resources and aren't obliged to help every group that seeks status on campus.
"Student union resources are not an entitlement. . . . This is not about access to university, but about access to student union space," he said.
Every cell in my adult female body loathes what these groups stand for: the subjugation of women, the denial of bodily integrity and personal autonomy, the imposition of fundamentalist religious beliefs on a secular society. But I question on what basis a student union can deny them funds.
Free speech and expression is for everyone, not just the people we agree with. It's true that student union funds are not an entitlement, but if other political and religious groups are funded, how can you justify this?
Surely supporters of reproductive rights realize that if funds can be denied to these groups today, in another political climate, they can be denied to our side tomorrow? I've spent my life defending reproductive freedom, but bodily freedoms can't be separated from freedom of thought and freedom of expression.
I'm thinking there must be more to this than I'm currently aware of, because it seems to be blatant discrimination. What am I missing?
Perhaps some people from the pro-choice blog community will stop by to fill me in, and hopefully they will shed light without giving me a lot of heat.
Update: Antonia Zerbisias on the same topic, thanks to skdadl.