Pro-life group broke the rules, UVic students’ society says

Last week, the University of Victoria Students’ Society finally ruled that an antiabortion club broke the school’s harassment policy by comparing abortion to the Holocaust in October 2010.

At a Feb. 7 meeting, the students’ society voted to censure Youth Protecting Youth over “Echoes of the Holocaust,” a talk led by a visiting representative of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. The public disapproval of YPY’s actions follows recommendations made by the students’ society’s complaints committee, which was formed in 2008 after numerous students voiced concerns regarding the controversial club.

“Because many students on campus are capable of having abortions and/or are students of Jewish decent, YPY should have reasonably thought to have known that using marketing materials for their presentation, which compares the Holocaust to abortion, could reasonably create a hostile, intimidating, threatening or humiliating environment on campus for individuals of the student body,” said UVic Students’ Society chair James Coccola. “In this case, we felt that the harassment policy was broken by YPY.”

The censure is little more than a public disapproval, Coccola said, confirming that YPY’s club status, reinstated last spring in B.C. Supreme Court, is not in question.

YPY president Anastasia Pearse worries possible revisions to the off-campus speakers policy would not be applied equally to all clubs and could be used to censor her group.

“Although we welcome and encourage dialogue on the abortion issue, we have not harassed anyone, and so the actions taken by the board are based on a false ‘guilty’ verdict,” Pearse wrote in an email to the News.

The complaints committee also recommended the UVSS board weigh mediation options with YPY and host a restorative justice (likely pro-choice) event, organized by the Political Action Committee.

Student feedback concerning YPY’s presence on campus have accounted for all complaints to the Students’ Society in recent history, Coccola said, adding the UVSS hopes to work with the group to prevent future issues.

The YPY controversy

Spring of 2008: The pro-life club starts an on-campus poster campaign

Summer of 2008: They receive club funding and status

Fall of 2008: UVSS receives complains from students over YPY’s presence and visiting speakers; the club loses funding

Spring 2009: Clubs council votes to fund YPY, students complain and the decision to fund the club is overturned; YPY loses club status

Winter 2010: The UVSS votes to deny YPY club status and funding for a one-year period

Spring 2010: YPY files a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuits against the Students’ Society; awarded club status and $775 in lost club fees

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