B.C. Court of Appeal rules against pro-life club
By Agnieszka Krawczynski
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms still does not apply to a group of students at the University of Victoria.
For the second time, members of the pro-life club Youth Protecting Youth have been handed a ruling against what they say is their right to free speech.
"I am disappointed," Cameron Cote, who was the president of YPY when he took the university to court in 2013, told The B.C. Catholic April 21. "I really expected the court to recognize that universities are a place that need to be protected by the Charter."
Cote, who has since graduated but still fights for the group, said discrimination against YPY's efforts have been going on at least since he began his studies in 2008.
In the past few years, the club has been denied funding, club status, and booking privileges. It has also experienced vandalism, theft, and disruption of its events with yelling matches and stink bombs.
In 2013 the club was given permission to book some outdoor space and host a display against abortion. One day before the scheduled event, the university suddenly revoked that permission.
The club held it anyway. The university took away its booking privileges for one year. That's when Cote filed a petition with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, who saw the ongoing struggle as a free-speech issue and took the university to court.
In January 2015, Judge Christopher Hinkson ruled that the Charter did not apply: "If the activity or decision falls within the university's sphere of autonomous operational decision-making, the Charter will not apply to such a decision." ("Autonomous", as in freedom from freedom of speech? In other words, is a university not a place for the free expression of informed, reasoned opinions? Has the court merely confirmed what most people with an ounce of common sense have known about for some time? That is, universities and colleges will not guarantee that inalienable rights will be protected.)
(Cote) said it is likely they will take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Now that the Court of Appeal has confirmed that universities can suspend the authority of the Charter, how much time will pass until university and college chaplains will be sanctioned for promoting the tenets of their respective religions (in homilies, lectures, etc.) and not permitted to comment about religious matters that contradict university policies? Or, will the Supreme Court see the threat to liberty which the lower courts seem to be permitting and act to correct the injustice against YPY and act to protect freedom of religious expression, a fundamental right closely allied to freedom of speech?