Pro-life Student Protesters Arrested at Carleton [updated]

Updated: more details in an Updated post

Photo Credit: Hilary Roberts, The Charlatan

The Charlatan, Carleton’s campus newspaper, reports that five pro-life protesters were arrested at the University of Carleton this morning. Four were Carleton students, and one was a Queen’s student. [video clip] Updated: detailed video

The five people were on campus to set up a visual display in Carleton’s quad showcasing images of abortion and comparing it to genocides such as the Holocaust, Lobo said.

Jason MacDonald, director of Carleton’s department of university communications, said the group had requested to set up in the Academic Quad but were told to set up in Porter Hall.

MacDonald said all five were charged under Ontario’s Trespass to Property Act.

They have now been released with Provincial Offense Notices.

Details are still scarce, but this seems pretty outrageous. Students get charged with protesting on their own campus? I’d like to know what steps were taken between the university discovering that the students had set up were they were told not to, and their being arrested and charged with trespassing under provincial law. Were the students asked to leave, and did they refuse? Or was this a heavy-handed response to send a message?

Also, someone who knows the Carleton campus better will have to confirm this, but I get the impression that the Academic Quad is outdoors, while Porter Hall is not. It’d be like if we were told to “protest” in Father Madden Hall instead of the Sid Smith patio. That kind of defeats the point of a protest, and I wonder how many other student groups get arrested if they don’t protest inside. It could be that the students decided to challenge an unfair restriction, that typically isn’t applied to other protesters and would totally undermine the purpose of a protest.

If that’s the case, a talk delivered by lawyer John Carpay at the NCLN Symposium this past weekend will be very relevant… He’s the lawyer representing the University of Calgary students who were charged with trespassing on their own campus for putting on a GAP display. In that case, however, the University stayed the charges days before they were due to appear in court, likely because they didn’t have a strong enough case. Since then, they haven’t tried the trespassing charge again, but they’re trying to bully the students with non-academic misconduct charges and the threat of expulsion. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember seeing images of U of C students in handcuffs… I’m pretty sure they were charged, but not arrested. Carpay’s opinion was that there was too much media attention, and the university would get bad press for cracking down on student speech so visibly. Someone at Carleton didn’t get the memo.

Now, I don’t know the difference between Alberta and Ontario’s trespassing laws, but it seems pretty ridiculous to charge students paying tuition for trespassing on their own campus. Even for the Queen’s student, I’d love to know what steps were taken before the handcuffs went on. Were the protesters asked to leave? Or were they just arrested right away?

My guess is that, regardless, Carleton will come to regret this ridiculous show of force. It’s censorship, and it’s bullying, and I’d love to know what other protest groups have been charged for trespassing on their own campus, and I wonder if Carleton will actually try to defend this in court, which Calgary was unwilling to do. If the University of Calgary is any indication though, these students are in for a long battle. This is more about intimidation than it is about the law.

Carpay also highly recommended the EFC’s reference guide for students and their legal counsel on the law and legal principles involve with pro-life campus club challenges. Highly recommended. I’ve only had a chance to skim it so far, but maybe we’ll dig into it a bit deeper later on.

Lastly, I hope this isn’t an emerging trend of pro-life protesters being arrested for showing images of what abortion actually is…

For now, just waiting for more news from Carleton…

Updated: Craig, one of the pro-lifers arrested, provides some more details in the comments.

Updated: The CCBR has photos.

5 Comments on “Pro-life Student Protesters Arrested at Carleton [updated]

  1. I was one of the one’s arrested. Porter Hall is an isolated old gymnasium off the beaten path. We refused to leave on the basis of our right to peaceful protest and assembly, also in keeping with our schools bylaws on protests ect. So much for free-speech. Our school has a long history of being very uncooperative with any and all pro-life activity on campus.

    Oddly enough, one of the charges is for “engaging in an prohibited activity on premises”, so much for student activism I guess.

    • “Porter Hall is an isolated old gymnasium off the beaten path.”

      Why am I not surprised?

      Well, kudos to you for making a sacrifice and challenging that kind of bullying. Which bylaws are you referring to? I was looking through the EFC guide’s appendix, and they only have links for Carleton University Students’ Association bylaws. I assume you mean university-level bylaws, rather than those of the student union.

      I’d love to know who else they’ve charged with “engaging in a prohibited activity on premises.”

  2. I can attest to Carleton’s hostility to pro-life efforts. My daughter Meredith was a student at Carleton, and the attempt to show the GAP presentation was going on back in her day. Good for you folks for challenging this oppression! We need universities that are not afraid of vigorous debate.

  3. Oh wow, you get granted space to set up shop, decide that isn’t good enough and that you should have the right to do whatever you want, and when you got spanked for having such an arrogant, self-entitled view on life, you complain. Amazing.

    PROTIP: Images aren’t speech, don’t operate in the same ways as speech and don’t affect people in the same ways as speech so turning this into a “free speech” debate is disingenuous. Your displays are so hideously one-sided that the pretenses of doing this under the guise of “debate” is intellectually dishonest at the highest level. No wonder this school is nicknamed “Last Chance U”.

    You played the game and you lost. Accept it and move on before you give all us pro-lifers a bad name.

    • Briefly: Free speech is the American concept, in Canada it’s freedom of expression protected by the Charter — and displaying images are absolutely a form of expression.

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