GBC students confront protestors holding graphic signs depicting abortions for the second time in two weeks
Students at St. James campus were outraged to find anti-abortion protesters holding graphic signs depicting abortions in front of the entrance on Feb. 22 and again on Monday, March 6.
George Brown College (GBC) students across all campuses are facing the prospect of anti-abortion protesters, because Toronto Against Abortion (TAA) said they plan to hold weekly protests for the rest of the semester.
Julia Temor, a post-graduate human resources management student at GBC, saw the images on her way to her midterm examination and said she found them disturbing.
“I understand that as a group protesting abortions, they wanted to instil shock into people with graphic imagery,” she said. “However, I think that having a rational discussion about why they choose to be pro-life would be a more effective method than attempting to scare people into agreeing with what the pro-life group feels is morally correct.”
TAA, who get their materials from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) said their aim is “to make abortion unthinkable.”
Michelle Pettis, the Community Action Centre (CAC) co-odinator at the Student Association (SA) of GBC, was part of a group of SA staff and students who countered the anti-abortion protestors and handed out pro-choice pins to students on both dates.
The Dialog is funded by the SA.
On Monday, Tiffany White, the SA’s director of education, tweeted at the college asking them to advise students that the protest was happening. The college replied that security was monitoring and that the protest was on public property and directed her to the counselling services.
.@tifanosaurusrex Thanks for contacting us. GBC security was aware & monitored this group that were on public property and have now left 1/2
— George Brown College (@GBCollege) March 6, 2017
.@tifanosaurusrex If their images negatively impacted you please contact counselling services available at each campus. 2/2
— George Brown College (@GBCollege) March 6, 2017
The anti-abortion protestors left shortly after being confronted on Monday and went to Ryerson University, where they were again opposed by the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective and members of the GBC community.
“I’m thankful for a GBC student community that was quick to respond and care for each other, including being clear that anti-choicers’ myth-filled misogynist messaging and hate is not welcome here,” said Pettis. “Students proved united as reproductive freedom fighters.”
Paul Douros, a renovation student at GBC’s Casa Loma campus, is currently the only GBC student with the TAA and said he plans to be at every GBC protest.
When asked why he thought he had a right to tell women what to do with their bodies Douros said, “I don’t have to be a slave owner to tell a slave owner that what you’re doing is wrong. I don’t have to be that particular person. I don’t have to go through that situation.”
Sarah Rayner, a women and trans students’ support staff member with the CAC was not at the Feb. 22 protest, but had students come to talk to them after the fact.
“I don’t believe there is any benefit to having protests like this on campus,” said Rayner. “Having constructive conversations and debates can be healthy, but coming to a campus with graphic images that can cause emotional harm and trapping people in condescending conversations meant to invalidate their view is harmful and manipulative.”
This is just one of many similar protests that have taken place at various university and college campuses across the city. TAA protests regularly at Ryerson University. CCBR also protested at Sheridan College this fall where abortion rights advocates hung up sheets to keep students from seeing the graphic signs.
— RyeReproJustice (@RyeReproJustice) March 6, 2017
Blaise Alleyne, who was also at the Feb. 22 protest, is an activist with TAA, the University of Toronto Students for Life (UTSFL) and CCBR.
Alleyne said post-secondary students are the biggest demographic for abortions, so they want to open a discourse with them while they are forming their opinions.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information statistics for 2014, of the total reported abortions the under 25 age group accounted for 39 per cent of reported abortions, the over 25 age group accounted for 54.8 per cent and ages were unknown for 6.2 per cent.
Hannah Reaburn, a co-ordinator for the Centre for Women and Trans People at Ryerson, said the protests make campuses an unsafe space for students.
“These protests are incredibly harmful to students. The anti-choice demonstrators chose imagery meant to traumatize and re-traumatize students and community members,” said Reaburn. “This trauma is carried with students into their classes, creating a barrier between students and their education.”
With files from Meng Ma
Correction: A previous version of this article said that Toronto Against Abortion protested at Sheridan College, it was actually the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. The article also stated that Students For Life at Ryerson participated in the protests, in fact the group is inactive and did not participate in the TAA’s protests. The Dialog regrets the errors.