Pro-life controversy strikes at Carleton

Queen’s Alive president arrested at pro-life campaign with four others for trespassing

Five students were fined $130 at Carleton during a pro-life campaign Oct. 4.
Five students were fined $130 at Carleton during a pro-life campaign Oct. 4.
Credit: 
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President of Queen’s Alive Zuza Kurzawa was one of five students arrested by Ottawa police at Carleton University while participating in a pro-life campaign last week. The four other students arrested were from Carleton.

According to Kurzawa, ArtSci ’13, she was released after 45 minutes and received $65 fines for two counts of trespassing amounting to a total of $130. She said the four Carleton students received the same treatment.

The trespassing charges were laid under the Trespass to Property Act when the students failed to leave property when asked and tried to go ahead with a prohibited event.

The morning of Oct. 4 was helping to prepare for a Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) exhibition on Carleton’s campus which involves putting up visual displays and barricades.

The controversial GAP project involves graphic displays which compare aborted fetuses to victims of genocides, such as Jews during the Holocaust. The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) provides pro-life clubs at universities with billboards depicting images of aborted fetuses and genocide victims.

According to Kurzawa, Carleton Lifeline, a pro-life student group, had booked an area in the outdoor quad of Carleton’s Tory Building months before the event.

“It’s a central area people can walk past. Carleton Lifeline applied for this area five months ago. In the last couple of weeks, university officials said it was off,” she said, adding that the Carleton University administration suggested the event take place in Porter Hall.

“Nobody goes there. No one knows where it is,” Kurzawa said. “I understand our message is unpopular but our right to speak should not be limited.”

Kurzawa said prior to the arrival of the police, she was engaging students in conversation about abortion.

“I was just standing there talking to people and I had a great discussion,” she said, adding that she understands why people find the images disturbing. “It’s hard to look at.”

Kurzawa said about nine police officers arrived at the exhibition and told the group to leave at about 9:30 a.m.

“They said ‘If you’re going to go, you have to go around the campus and turn the signs inward.’ They didn’t want anyone seeing the images,” she said.

Kurzawa said there were about 20 students participating in the event when police arrived and arrested her and four others. Carleton campus safety officers had stopped the group of students when carrying their signs before contacting the Ottawa police.

According to Jason MacDonald, director of Carleton’s department of university communications, the group was offered a table in the University Centre atrium to direct people to their display in Porter Hall.

“They indicated that they wouldn’t respect the fact that we told them they didn’t have permission to set up in the quad,” MacDonald told the Charlatan, Carelton’s campus newspaper.

Kurzawa said she’s fighting the fines with the help of a pro-bono lawyer that Carleton Lifeline was put in touch with by the National Campus Life Network.

The GAP has never been shown at Queen’s but Kurzawa said part of her motivation for going to Carleton was to see if Queen’s Alive would want to use it.

“It was a good opportunity to see if it’s even feasible to bring it to Queen’s,” adding that the display was initially planned to last two days.

Kurzawa said Queen’s Alive might use the display in the future.

“The point of the event is to get people thinking,” she said. “[University] seems like the most appropriate place to do this.

“We’ll see in a couple of years,” she said, adding that the club might use methods like a Choice Chain for now.

According to the CCBR, a Choice Chain involves a line of people standing on a public sidewalk holding signs depicting first-semester aborted fetuses.

“You don’t need a permit for it and you can’t get arrested for it,” Kurzawa said.

The GAP has been seen at over 150 university campuses in the US since 1998 and was first seen in Canada at UBC in 1999. Since then, the GAP displays have made appearances at UBC, Simon Fraser University, Thompson Rivers University, Trinity Western University, University of Calgary, University of Alberta, University of Manitoba, University of Toronto and Carleton University.

The GAP project has caused controversy at other university campuses. Most notably, last April eight students from University of Calgary’s Campus Pro-Life Club faced the possibility of expulsion for refusing to remove a GAP display from campus.

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