Carleton anti-abortion club status reviewed

Carleton University's student association plans a vote in December on whether to allow an anti-abortion group to register as a club.

Carleton Lifeline complains of discrimination by student association

Carleton University's student association said Thursday it will vote in December on whether to change its policies and allow an anti-abortion group to register as a club.

Carleton Lifeline, an anti-abortion group on campus at the Ottawa university, said this week its club status had been revoked as part of the student association's policy against discrimination, which specifically bans any group that opposes a woman's right to have an abortion.

Ruth Lobo, president of Carleton Lifeline, said the decision went against the principle that a university should be a venue for free speech.

"CUSA is not fairly representing all of their students, they are very much limiting what can be talked about on campus, what students should be exposed to — and they are really in some ways saying that you have to be pro-choice to be on this campus," said Lobo.

"That's a huge infringement on rights to freedom of speech on university campuses. If we can't talk about controversial ideas here, then where?"

Khaldoon Bushnaq, the student association's vice-president of internal affairs, said a motion to alter the policy was introduced Wednesday and will come to vote in December.

Without club status, the group won't receive funding or have access to certain areas on campus managed by the association.

The university administration said the decision to deny the club's status was made by the student association — an arm's-length organization — and not by the university. The university said Carleton Lifeline "will continue to be offered public space and tables on campus which is consistent with the university's practice with respect to other student groups."

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said that while civil liberty groups tend to be pro-choice on the abortion debate, the student union's decision undermines free speech, which could affect other minority groups.

"Associations like ours are pro-choice, but that doesn't mean that you can deny the right to an anti-abortion group to have access to their facilities to express their views," said Des Rosiers. "You are strengthening your choice view if you allow others to speak."

With files from The Canadian Press