The always-controversial abortion debate is heating up across the province after the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) of Ontario passed a contentious motion.
At a conference in January, CFS-Ontario approved a motion to support student unions that wish to ban pro-life groups from their campuses.
The motion was brought forth by the Lakehead University Student Union, that wished to deny official club status to the group Life Support.
Concerns CFS-Ontario would support student unions targeting religious groups that oppose abortion were raised by a representative of the Ryerson Student Union (RSU), who was in attendance at the conference.
Heather Kere, RSU VP-education, proposed an amendment to the motion on the basis the definition of an “anti-choice” group was not clear. The amendment was not passed.
“The amendment was to clarify the language around the past actions of the group that would be denied space,” Kere said.
Kere noted pro-life groups should not be banned unless they are harassing students or using sensationalistic imagery. She added the group at Lakehead had behaved inappropriately in the past.
Sandy Hudson, the CFS-Ontario Women’s Commissioner, said while the motion is not meant to target religious groups, groups that oppose abortion should not be funded by students.
When asked whether Ryerson students should be exposed to both sides of the abortion issue, Hudson said allowing an anti-choice group would be like allowing a white supremacist group on campus.
Hudson added the literature distributed by Life Support likened abortion to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the Holocaust.
The CFS-Ontario decision is welcome news for Joyce Arthur, coordinator of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.
Arthur believes pro-life groups should not receive support from student unions because they seek to repress human rights. She said these groups are comparable to Neo-Nazi movements.
Jakki Jeffs, executive director of Alliance for Life Ontario, asked why pro-life groups are being targeted by student unions.
“What is so different about a pro-life group other than it is politically incorrect?” she asked.
Although Western’s main campus does not have a pro-life group at present, there is one at King’s University College.
According to Nathan Welch, a member of King’s Live for Life, a pro-life group at King’s, the University Students’ Council will review an application by students at main campus to establish a pro-life group in the next two weeks.
He said such an application was turned down by a previous council.