By Annie Arnone
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) has plans to work with the university to gain stewardship over Gould Street, following recent pro-life protests taking place on campus.
The City of Toronto owns the street, but stewardship rights would transfer management responsibilities and allow Ryerson or the RSU to kick off any non-student protesters.
RSU vice-president equity, Tamara Jones, is behind the proposal. Pro-life protesters have been on Gould Street since September, carrying anti-abortion posters with enlarged images of aborted fetuses. Ryerson students and the RSU* has responded by covering the pro-life images with signs of their own, reading “mind your own fucking business,” and bringing blankets to cover up pro-life signs. However, most of these people are not Ryerson students.
Another solution Jones proposed would be to allow a peaceful protest without the use of graphic imagery.
Jones met with Ryerson President Mohamed Lachemi on Nov. 15, after she was approached by a group of students about the protests. In the meeting they discussed moving forward in dealing with non-student protesters who come to campus, as well as her visions for the street.
“Students are getting really upset about the photos being shown. I don’t think students are even upset about what they’re protesting, but the majority of students are affected by the graphic images—that’s what’s most triggering,” Jones said.
After meeting with Lachemi, the president concluded that the university has a legal team looking into the options that the school has in terms of working around city property. Jones said in the meeting that she and the president discussed the importance of freedom of speech, and agreed that the problem lies in the use of graphic images to convey a message.
“It’s not very effective to give a list of asks or demands and then expect him to do something, so instead I want to work with him to find a solution,” Jones said. According to Ryerson’s manager of security and emergency services, Tanya Poppleton, Ryerson security does not have the power to enforce the Trespass to Property Act or any city bylaws.
For example, if someone were to smoke weed on Gould Street, a Ryerson security guard would have a limited amount of authority in handling the situation.
Similar to protesting, smoking weed in public falls under a grey area and is not under all circumstances considered to be a criminal act in Ontario.
“We can make an arrest under The Criminal Code, under citizens powers of arrest … but outside of that we don’t have any powers so we would have to call Toronto Police,” Poppleton said.
The areas of campus within the Gould Street enclosure, that are city property, include Victoria Lane, the gardens going up to Kerr Hall West, as well as the ledges, sidewalk and road of Gould Street.
With files from Alanna Rizza.
Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that RSU executives were counter-protesting pro-life protestors on Gould Street. In fact, RSU equity service centre staff and volunteers were behind the counter protests. The Eyeopener regrets this error.