One small victory for freedom of speech
The GazetteMarch 5, 2009
McGill University's student government has bucked an unfortunate national trend by granting full club status to a student anti-abortion group.
The Student Society's decision to grant recognition to Choose Life is not so much a victory for pro-life forces as it is a victory for free speech and freedom of association, values that seem to be under attack, and poorly defended, on many Canadian campuses - where they should be safest.
Students at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus, for example, have denied status to an anti-abortion group, and Carleton University's student leaders are considering a motion to refuse support or space to any group that doesn't support "a woman's right to choose."
But anti-abortion groups aren't the only ones having on-campus problems, which is what makes this fundamentally a free-speech issue. Pro-Israeli students often find their views marginalized as well. It appears to be a lot easier, for example, to organize an "Israel-Apartheid" week, like the current ones at McGill and Concordia, than to get a room and a time for a pro-Israeli speaker.
So the McGill students' decision is a hopeful sign that not all students have bought into the notion that debate should be limited to a very narrow spectrum of "acceptable" opinions. But some of the rhetoric in the society's heated two-hour debate over Choose Life's status illustrated the scope of the challenge to free debate: "There's a lot of legitimacy in calling this group oppressive to women," Councillor Sarah Woolf argued. "SSMU operates under an anti-oppressive environment, and we cannot allow this club to continue."
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