Our Student Leaders Are Hardly Totalitarian

April 2008

When the executive members of the York University Student Centre decided not to allow student space to be used as a platform to advocate criminalizing women, we were aware that there would be objections.

We were also aware that anti-choice campaigners would attempt to cloak themselves as defenders of "free speech" to avoid admitting that they do not think women should have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies. We were not aware that a traditionally reputable publication like the Citizenwould stoop to demonizing students' representatives by calling us "totalitarians."

The anti-choice campaign event was proposed by representatives of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, a group whose mission is to "make abortion unthinkable." This group has harassed students on a number of Ontario university campuses with graphic images and materials that compare abortion to the Holocaust as part of a campaign that it calls the "Genocide Awareness Project."

These anti-choice campaigners propose that women in Canada should not be able to access the medical procedure of abortion without being prosecuted.

Most York University students recognize that every woman has the right to choose. They also understand that moral considerations about abortion are a very personal matter.

The York University Student Centre executive committee is committed to the right of all persons to the freedom of expression that is guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, all persons are also entitled to function in an environment free of harassment and intimidation tactics that anti-choice campaigners continue to employ. Since the Student Centre is accountable to students, not York University administrators, not conservative pundits and certainly not anti-choice campaigners from an organization external to the York University community, it was decided that no student resources (i.e. the free use of the Student Centre space) would be allocated to support an anti-choice campaign of intimidation and harassment.

York University can make its own decisions and, if the York University president wishes to host a debate organized by these anti-choice campaigners, the university will have to take responsibility for that.