OTTAWA, Ontario, October 4, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Four pro-life students at the Carleton University and one from Queen’s University were arrested this morning by Ottawa city police as they prepared to conduct a peaceful pro-life demonstration on Carleton’s campus.
The students were arrested around 9:00 a.m. as they were preparing to set up signs in the university’s Tory Quad, a central outdoor location, for the Genocide Awareness Project, which compares abortion to past atrocities through graphic imagery.
“This will set the standard for how far pro-lifers are willing to go for their right to freedom of speech, and their right to talk about abortion,” said Ruth Lobo, a fourth-year student and president of Carleton Lifeline, after she and the others were released this morning.
The university had forbidden the GAP display in the location, and told them to do it in Porter Hall – a large, out of the way, room in the university’s student life building. They persisted even after the students’ lawyer told the university that they were infringing freedom of speech.
After fruitless negotiations with the university, the students warned them that they would protest this morning by putting up their display in the quad. The students planned a national protest, inviting students from campuses across the country. The four Carleton students – Lobo, James Shaw, Nicholas MacLeod, and Craig Stewart – were joined by Zuza Kurzawa from Queen’s, who was also arrested. Two students from the University of Calgary and Brandon University also came.
“As we all know, the purpose of doing this outdoor event is because no one wants to talk about abortion,” said Lobo. “We want to challenge mainstream views. I don’t think they would object if we wanted to do a Holocaust display outside.”
Jason MacDonald, Carleton’s director of communications, told LifeSiteNews that student groups are not normally permitted use of the quad for displays. “In addition, the content of the Genocide Awareness Project has been found to be disturbing and offensive to some by the courts and human rights tribunals in other jurisdictions (BC for instance),” he wrote in an e-mail.
Canadian GAP leaders said they were not aware of any such cases, however. MacDonald did not provide examples by press time.
Lobo noted, further, that the quad is listed as bookable space, and that it has been used by student groups in the past. MacDonald did not respond by press time when asked about the university’s criteria to determine whether students can use the quad.
Lobo said that when they were told this morning by campus security – who awaited their arrival along with the Ottawa police – to move to Porter Hall, security said they would escort them by a private route so that no one would see the signs. “So they really were very adamant that no one see this thing, and very adamant that no one wants to see this,” she said.
The students were taken handcuffed to campus security services, where the Ottawa police charged each with 2 counts of trespassing – failure to leave property when asked, and trying to go ahead with a prohibited event. They were each fined $130.
The students are now waiting to speak with their lawyer before deciding how to respond. However, they are planning another display Tuesday evening before a debate at the University of Ottawa featuring Stephanie Gray of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform.
“It needs to remain clear that, while this seems like fair appeasement to many people, when you really look at why the university asked us to move, it’s clear censorship based on the topic of our material,” said Lobo. “I think it’s the equivalent of telling Martin Luther King he can protest, as long as he does it in his church, and invites white people to come see it. His message was considered to be disturbing and offensive to lots of people.”
“If we can’t freely express ideas on campus, we have nothing,” she added.