By Justin Chandler
This is an updated version of a story published on February 28.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled in favour of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) in a lawsuit brought against it on behalf of the Ryerson’s Men’s Issues Awareness Society (MIAS).
The student group had alleged the RSU contravened its own bylaws and violated members’ freedom of expression when the RSU, led by then-president Andrea Bartlett, denied the MIAS’ application for student club status in 2015. At the time, Bartlett said the union’s decision was in part because of the MIAS’ associations with national men’s rights groups and the group not acknowledging women’s oppression and male privilege. In 2016, after an appeal to the RSU board of directors was voted down, the MIAS filed the lawsuit against the RSU.
Justice Paul Perell heard legal arguments on Jan. 24 and deferred judgment and released his decision Monday, in which he dismissed the case.
“Turning then to the merits of Mr. Arriola’s and Ms. Godlewski’s case against RSU, there is no merit to it,” Perell wrote. Kevin Arriola and Alexandra Godlewski are members of MIAS named in the case.
He continued that the RSU did not violate its own rules and regulations nor “the rights of Mr. Arriola and Ms. Godlewski, and the group of Ryerson students they represent, to association and expression.”
“Mr. Arriola and Ms. Godlewski have no right nor entitlement to official Student Group status, which is a discretionary matter for the RSU to decide in accordance with its published policies and procedures,” Perell wrote.
“Putting the matters of esteem and the $1,200 of base funding aside, truth be told, official Student Group Status is actually not a significant issue,” he continued, adding the RSU’s appeals process is “more than adequate” to fairly deal with the situation.
The RSU was sued as part of a joint case alongside two other student unions. The applicants were the MIAS and two anti-choice groups. They alleged their respective student unions unfairly denied them club status in 2015 and 2016, thereby violating union rules and the applicants’ freedom of expression.
Lawyers representing the student unions argued in court that Perell had no jurisdiction to rule on the case, but he ruled that was not the case.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, whose lawyer Marty Moore represented MIAS, released a statement today saying the student groups it represented are seeking appeal.
Moore confirmed to The Eyeopener that the student groups are considering appeal and said more information will be made available once a decision is made. He said any of the three applicants could appeal the decision independently. He called Perell’s decision a “cursory analysis” of the value clubs have on campus, which placed more value on money than the role clubs have in engaging students.