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Pro-life student group takes RSU to court after club status rejection

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By Nicole Schmidt

After being denied official club status on campus, a pro-life student group made its first court appearance in a lawsuit against the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU).

Students for Life at Ryerson (SFLR) applied to become an official group through the RSU at the beginning of the 2014 school year, but their application was rejected one month later. The RSU board of directors upheld the rejection after an appeal in February 2015.

SFLR was denied club status because their mandate goes against the RSU’s women’s issues policy. In an email sent after the rejection, RSU president Rejean Hoilett wrote that the RSU does not support groups that promote misogynist views towards women and ideologies that promote gender inequality, challenge a woman’s right to bodily autonomy or justify sexual assault.

SFLR’s vice-president, third-year business student Carter Grant, said the group is an educational resource and a support system. The goal is to give students a safe space to learn about issues surrounding abortion, and to help anyone facing difficulties. “We’re not there to force ideals on anyone, we just want to start a discussion — a healthy discussion,” he said.

The case went to court on Dec. 18. SFLR claims that the rejection violates Ryerson’s policy to protect freedom of speech on campus. According to an article on LifeSite, the group’s lawyer, Carol Crosson, argued that the RSU acted with “improper intentions and bad faith.” RSU lawyers Alexi Wood and Jennifer Saville argued that official club status “is a privilege, not a right, and that the pro-life group suffered no adverse consequences by being denied club status.”

But Grant said that not having official status has created challenges surrounding funding and finding space on campus.

In order to run events, the group raises its own money. “The time we spend fundraising means we have less time to focus on our mandate,” said Grant. He added that the group has booked space to host events in the past, only to be bumped at the last minute. “Not having official status puts you at the bottom of the totem pole,” he said.

The case is expected to cost upwards of $20,000 and has been funded primarily through donations. SFLR has raised around $15,000 thus far.

A decision regarding the club’s status is expected to be made sometime within the next few months.

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