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Recognition Where Recognition is Due: Free Speech Paramount at UBC

For pro-life students on Canadian university campuses, it’s become difficult to see light at the end of the tunnel.  In the free expression battles that these students face with courage each year, it has started to seem like campus after campus will just be more of the same. Pro-life students plan events, with or without graphic images and their campus club status is revoked, their funding cut off, and they are harassed, screamed down and have their materials confiscated or destroyed.

It’s discouraging and depressing, yet fresh students joining the clubs each year encourage the experienced to go through the experience again. What in the world is going on at Canadian university campuses? And in the offices of the university administrators?

I’ll leave those significant questions for another day. There will be a time to address the ideologies, discuss the worldviews and toss around the concepts of liberalism, pluralism and the marketplace of ideas. But today, I’ll just say thank you.

 Thank you, University of British Columbia, for allowing your pro-life students to engage on campus with the equal rights of every other UBC student. Thank you for  treating your students with respect and giving the pro-life students on your campus the opportunity to participate in discussion and debate with other young adults in a calm and respectful fashion.

When I started working at the EFC, I sorted through the files of my predecessor. In the pro-life file, I came across clippings from 1999 that included shocking images of violent student vandals destroying a pro-life exhibit and making vulgar gestures at the photographers. One of the yellowed clippings was from an article entitled Kristallnacht on campus.  In one case, students had wanted to put on a pro-life graphic images display. The university required that the students put down a $20,000 security deposit. (And naturally, this requirement was not placed on organizers of a pro-choice rally.) Unable to pay the deposit, the event was cancelled.

After weeks of negotiating, the students were granted approval for a scaled-down version of the event.  The day of the event, while quietly speaking to some individuals, three students approached the display, tore down posters, ripped placards and overturned tables. About $500 of damage was done. Lawsuits followed.

All this had happened at the University of British Columbia.

The 1999 clippings stand in stark contrast to reports of the peaceful and successful pro-life event that took place on March 11, 2011 on that same campus. Again, graphic images were used as part of the display, but no restrictions or limits were placed on the students. UBC trusted their students to engage in free speech, even putting a policy in place that required protestors to stay at least 30 feet away but also allowing them to be present. The event went on without a hitch.


There is hope for free speech on the university campus after all.

Well done, UBC. Well done.


UPDATE: A Facebook fan tipped us off to another pro-life event that recently took place at a university - this time at the University of Toronto. Read more here.

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