Anti-abortion student club loses court battle, again

A UVic pro-life student club has faced yet another legal setback on Monday, April 18, as the B.C. Court of Appeals ruled against the group in a free-speech battle that has endured on and off for years.

Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) had been approved to book an outdoor space for an event on campus in 2013, but UVic administration revoked that approval when, according to CBC, “it learned its student society had sanctioned the group for apparently harassing students.”

YPY held a demonstration anyway, so the university suspended its outdoor-space booking privileges for one year, triggering legal action. The club, with support from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), argued that the Charter of Rights should be taken into account by the university.  

But the B.C. Supreme Court disagreed, ruling in favour of the university in January 2015, with Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson saying that the Charter “does not apply to the activities relating to the booking of space by students.”

The Martlet’s report on that ruling can be found here.

YPY and the BCCLA appealed the decision, but a three-judge panel decided Monday the Supreme Court decision would stand and ruled in favour of the university once again.

YPY Outreach Coordinator Bianca Rojo gave a statement to the Martlet over email:

We are disappointed with the decision and that the court said that universities are not subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and because of this universities will be able to pick and choose what can be said on their campuses.  Universities should be places of open dialogue and debate, and freedom of expression should be encouraged.

We have yet to hear from the lawyers and BCCLA if they plan to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.  But what we do know is that they are adamant about defending our right to freedom of expression on campus.

A UVic spokesperson told the Martlet that the university is reviewing the ruling and “recognizes there is still an avenue of appeal available to those who brought the case forward.”

The UVSS Board of Directors, when asked about the ruling at their final board meeting on Monday evening, would not comment on the decision. The society itself was sued by YPY in May 2010 when the society revoked its club status, but that lawsuit was dropped two months later when it was reinstated.

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