A Response to the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) by Kateri Muys of the Nursing Student’s Association

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The following commentary was given after our GAP display at the Student Council Meeting

UMSU address and commentary on the motion to ban the student group “University of Manitoba Students for a Culture of Life (or UMSCL)”

Kateri Muys, Senior Stick
Nursing Students’ Association
Faculty of Nursing, University of Manitoba

I wanted to make some sort of commentary due to the discussion of this display on campus. After speaking with various students, faculty and administration in the Faculty of Nursing, friends in other programs and teachers and administration from other faculties at the University of Manitoba, I wanted to present a few points on the topic of banning the student pro-life group on campus.

First, as a collective amount of people, the pro-life movement has something called the march for life annually in every major city across North America. This past year saw just over 600,000 people advocating the prolife cause in Washington DC, 20,000 people advocating this pro-life cause in Ottawa, and here in Winnipeg just under 1000 people. In Brandon, Manitoba, there are pro-life slogans and images on benches around the city. In Winnipeg there are organizations that are planning on purchasing space on transit buses similar to the atheist/agnostic slogans featured on buses which I am sure many of us here have heard of. In Atlanta, Georgia, there are billboards depicting an African American baby with a tear rolling down their cheek and the caption “Black Genocide” and then for more information a link which leads to the statistics regarding ethnic groups and minorities and their rates of abortion.

This is a controversial topic but luckily the motion tonight is not one of conflicting ideologies.
It is a motion regarding the banning of the only voice at the University of Manitoba of a pro-life group and those that identify as pro-life; which, as I have outlined already, there are a lot of people who identify as pro-life, who are active in the movement and even this particular group on campus has the support of external pro-life groups including legal support and financial donations.

Again, this campus boasts three religious colleges on campus and more than likely there are pro-choice and pro-life people in all of our programs. I want to think of tolerance and dialogue as I am sure there are pro-life students in my program as well.

Tolerance vs. Banning?
From a tolerance perspective, I have to wonder if banning this student group would even serve a purpose. The students involved and the supporters of this pro-life group will continue to meet, gather, and I already know of rooms and speakers that would continue to be provided to them even without student status. If there is an agenda that thinks banning this student group will end their activity, I am curious to know what exactly would change as this group already has multiple supports and likely would carry on doing the exact same things they are doing. This suggests banning might be ineffective and that dialoguing between umsu and this student group might be a better route.

Information
As mentioned by an administrative member in the Faculty of Nursing on this topic of banning the pro-life group, this faculty member noted that in nursing we try to make moments like these teachable moments and work towards how we can ease conflict in the future through dialogue. As nurses, we take an involved view in this topic as we are part of the medical team and often a first resource to women who are considering abortion and their choices. I went to see the display after hearing about it and was impressed to see the pro-life and pro-choice views both being presented. This suggests if there was a person questioning their beliefs or considering having an abortion, they could make an informed decision due to both groups being present. It seems the venue for those seeking to ban this student group might be better off to form a pro-choice group on campus or through ventures in other student groups rather than banning which may be ineffective and the pro-choice view could be presented alongside these projects.

Freedom of speech
From the literature and imagery provided and any penalizing due to their choice of literature or images as any university or regulatory body, you either have free speech or you don’t. If you regulate free speech, it ceases to be free speech; instead, you have a speech code and tyranny of the majority regulating what is and isn’t acceptable speech. In Winnipeg the pro-life cause is a minority – 200 miles south in recent Gallup polling it is the majority which makes what is and isn’t acceptable every more of a gray area.

According (as of June 2013), Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act – Hate speech (or in our case images included) is no longer part of the Canadian Human Rights Act. This was done in order to protect civil liberties and free speech and to prevent such incidences of tyranny of the majority over what may not be popular free speech. All things considered, if banning this student group would be unjust and unfounded according to the Canadian Human Rights Act, I fail to see how banning this student group can be founded here at University of Manitoba by any regulatory body. Thus it seems, banning a student group is an unjust motion denying students group status and those students on campus the same rights granted to other student groups.

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