Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Free Speech is not an Absolute Right

Following up on yesterday's post about an anti-abortion group at the University of Calgary's fight with University administration, I hear this morning on CBC the meme about how a Charter Right is being abrogated.

Well, that would almost be true - except that CPL's campaign happens to take place on University property. There are some 20,000 students on that campus, plus faculty and staff. The University has to be scrupulously careful about the rights of all of those 20,000 odd denizens of Campus.

If, for example, the student GLBT organization on campus, GLASS, were to put up a campaign of 4' x 8' signage that featured graphic homosexual erotica as its primary imagery, I can only imagine that the CPL organization's members would be at the forefront screaming about how inappropriate and offensive GLASS's campaign is. ... and they'd be quite right.

We already have a pretty good idea what CPL wants to put up, and it is in the same category.

Yes, to a point, they are protected under S2b. of the Charter which reads:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d) freedom of association.

But, just as the example I mentioned above would be considered 'over the line', so are the tactics of many in the so-called "pro life" lobby. The University has always reserved the right to limit student protests that are offensive or otherwise infringe upon the rights of others - including the right to go from point to point on campus without feeling like you have to 'run the gauntlet' - which is certainly how I've felt when I've had to go past CPL's displays before.

I applaud CPL's members for having ideals and speaking out for them. Now it's time that they learned how to speak their piece in a manner that is respectful of the other citizens of the University community.


evilscientist said...

On the other hand, by banning, the UofC has given this group _way_ more publicity than they deserve. A tricky call really. I would think that if they were allowed to put up their display, the shear tastelessness of it would cause far more damage to their cause than a ban would.

MgS said...

Yes, but at the same time, should the University give a free stage to a group solely on the basis of the volume of screeching the group does or the amount of funding some parent organization(s) can pump into legal challenges?