U of M Students’ Union in hot water with pro-life group Anna-Lilja Dawson: Senior News Editor October 18, 2013 12:00 am News A students group’s display of “offensive materials” has erupted into controversey at theUniversity of Manitoba. SASKATOON (CUP) — In early October the University of Manitoba Students’ Union came under fire after a motion was proposed to revoke a pro-life group’s club status. The motion was proposed following complaints that the University of Manitoba Students for a Culture of Life was exposing students to offensive materials, which included photos of aborted fetuses. UMSCL held a pro-life display in the Curry Place Pedway, a high traffic outdoor area at the U of M, on Sept. 23–25. “From our perspective, the reception of the display from the students we’ve encountered was as an overall positive one,” UMSCL President Agnus-Mariae Lucas wrote to Canadian University Press. “We did come across some very upset people, however there were no violent reactions and no one approached us with the impression that they would make formal complaints.” At the Sept. 23 UMSU council meeting, a motion was put forward by a student at large to revoke the UMSCL’s club status. Thao Lam, UMSU vice-president of student services, told CUP in an email that the motion was deemed a non-emergency by the council chair and was recommended to the Student Group Promotions and Affairs Committee. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms — a Calgary-based, donation-funded institution — sent a letter on Oct. 2 to UMSU stating that should UMSCL lose their club status, Lucas would press charges and seek a court order that the union cease its discrimination against her and other students. The JCCF cited the lack of definition for discrimination or harassment in UMSU Policy 2009 as grounds for unsubstantial reasoning for revoking the UMSCL’s status, and referred to the protection all students on the U of M campus have under the Manitoba Human Rights Code in regards to political belief, association and activity. When reviewing the motion put forward by the student at large, SGPAC referred to UMSU Policy 2009. The policy states that the “UMSU does not condone behaviour that is likely to undermine the dignity, self-esteem or productivity of any of its members or employees and prohibits any form of discrimination or harassment whether it occurs on UMSU property or in conjunction with UMSU-related activities.” The committee found that UMSU Policy 2009 should be applied broadly and recommended that the motion be defeated. “The main debate was whether banning the group was an appropriate punishment for violating the policy. It was mutually agreed upon that the consequence of banning the group is more than the offence merits,” Lam wrote to CUP. Lam said the committee found UMSU lacking necessary policy to deal with issues of this kind. In response, SGPAC put forward two motions. One would require the council to meet with university administration “to push for a reconsideration of the review and approval process for public displays” and the second outlined a review and clarification of the policies that govern the revocation of club status and penalization of clubs. The initial motion was defeated at the Oct. 7 UMSU council meeting, however the two secondary motions put forward by SGPAC passed. Lucas said in an email to CUP that the UMSCL was notified on Sept. 24 by Jackie Gruber, U of M human rights and equity advisor, that her office had received complaints regarding the display. Lucas was never informed of the nature of the complaints. The displays shown by UMSCL were large posters depicting historical genocides and aborted fetuses side by side to argue that abortion is a violation of human rights. In an email to CUP, Lucas wrote that the group had been planning the Genocide Awareness Project since May and had been approved by the U of M in June. The project is a part of a larger campaign which has been seen on campuses across Canada and in the United States. In a press release from the UMSCL, JCCF and the Western Campus Life Network following the last council meeting, Vice-President of UMSCL Cara Ginter said that the organization was glad to witness the defeat of the motion to revoke their club status. “The display was a great opportunity to dialogue with students about the issue of abortion,” Ginter stated in the release. “We’re looking forward to continuing this conversation over the course of the year, educating our peers about this important human rights issue.” – Photo: Tanja/Flickr h I think they should be allowed to be a club again. If the uni doesn’t have the proper policy and is instead just kicking them off then that’s the uni’s fault not the club’s. The club brings up an important issue and a hot topic which sparks great debates.