GBC defends allowing anti-abortion protests inside school

Nursing student says lack of action by the college makes her feel that students are not the priority

There has been a lot of talk about anti-abortion protesters on campus this semester due to the Toronto Against Abortion (TAA) group protesting at the college on a regular basis.

Some students have been less than pleased to see the anti-abortion demonstrators on campus with graphic signs and trying to talk to students about why they believe abortion is wrong.

But what seems to have some students more upset is the apparent lack of action by George Brown College’s (GBC) administration to remove them.

Some students took to Twitter to voice their disappointment at how the school is handling the protests after the Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform (CCBR) protested inside the school on April 3.

In an email to students on April 7, GBC president Anne Sado said that while the school does not necessarily hold the views of the protesters, that the school understands that abortion is a sensitive topic and that counselling services are available for students who need them.

Jessica Switzer, a nursing student at the Waterfront campus, emailed Sado about the school’s response to the protesters and was told that another member of the administration would talk to her further.

“It was a very short response that completely ignored the vast majority of the email I sent, apart from my questions regarding what is considered public/private property with regards to our institution,” said Switzer adding that the response felt passive-aggressive to her.

“It makes me feel as though myself and the other students that attend GBC are not the priority of the administration and that the administration of the school is hiding behind arbitrary definitions as a Crown institution to avoid having to take a proper stance regarding the presence of the protesters inside campus buildings,” said Switzer.

Karen Thomson, GBC’s vice president of student life, alumni and marketing, said that legally the school cannot remove the group from campus because of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If the groups are disrupting classes or the learning of students then the school can ask them to leave, but as long as they remain peaceful Thomson said the school’s hands are tied.

“George Brown College is a public institution, so facilities are accessible to the public,” said Thomson. “All advocacy groups are permitted on campus as long as they are peacefully protesting.”

In an email to The Dialog, William Reid, the Student Association’s legal counsel wrote that Thomson’s take was “essentially correct.” Reid added that “the public areas of community colleges are open to the public, not just the college community, and that individuals may exercise their right to free speech in such spaces, subject to being removed by security only if their conduct warrants it.”

To ensure students’ well-being during the exam period, GBC’s administration asked TAA and the CCBR to stay away from campus during the week of April 17.

In emails obtained by The Dialog both groups told the college that they were not planning any protests during the exam period. Blaise Alleyne from TAA said they would resume visits to campuses in the future.

Thomson said as far as keeping students in the loop, it’s up to the protest groups to inform the school when they will be appearing on campus, so the school can send out an email. So far, neither group has let administrators know prior to coming to campus, and that has hindered GBC’s efforts to inform the students.

Switzer said she didn’t feel the college telling students to go to counselling was the appropriate response.

“It says to me that while the administration is perfectly aware that the presence of these types of protesters and the imagery that they use can be very detrimental to the mental health of the students within the institution, they are going to allow their presence inside the campuses regardless of that fact,” she said.

Thomson said that other efforts to ensure student safety include sending campus security to meet the groups and make them aware of human rights policies regarding free speech in the school.

“We have to protect students while respecting the group’s views,” said Thomson. “We are not sponsoring the views of any group coming to campus.”

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GBC defends allowing anti-abortion protests inside school

  • Anonymous

    If abortion is legal, then why would these images traumatize anyone? These images are merely depicting a reality in Canada that is embraced, if not applauded. Why would anyone be disturbed with something that is so prevalent in our day and age? Could it be that those who are disturbed by these images are beginning to realize that perhaps abortion is a horrific act?

  • Ron McCracken

    Have any of the young women considered that Canada has murdered 6 million unborns already? That is nearly 20% of our population. Have they realized what this means for the future of Canada? Have they even considered the personal consequences had their mothers ‘chosen’ to abort them? They can be very thankful.

    • Fact check:

      1. According to data from Statistics Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information, there have been an estimated 3,727,146 reported abortions in Canada since 1970. There were some problems with under-reporting in the data but the claim of 6 million abortions is unsubstantiated and untrue.

      2. The population of Canada was 36,286,400 in 2016. Even if there had been 6 million abortions, that would only be 16.53 per cent of the population. The actual number would be 10.27 per cent, not 20 per cent.

      3. Murder is a legal term in the Criminal Code and not applicable to anyone who accesses abortions or provides them. Abortion has been completely decriminalized in Canada since 1988 when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the existing law as unconstitutional in R. v. Morgentaler. Saying that abortions in Canada are murder is false.

      Mick Sweetman
      Managing editor, The Dialog

      • Ron McCracken

        The terms ‘estimated’ and ‘reported’ indicate that the figure given is anything but reliable. Ontario now bans release of abortion statistics, even with a FoI request, so determining an exact toll is deliberately impossible. If other provinces do likewise, the figure stated is likely highly unreliable. I did say ‘nearly’ 20%.

        When you intentionally kill a living human being, it is murder. Ottawa could arbitrarily change its current law at any time, as you know. It did so recently when it passed its new MAID law, allowing medical personnel to likewise murder specific Canadian citizens who survived its abortion law.

        I based my figures on U.S. statistics that are readily available. Some 60 million unborns have been murdered there. Canada’s population is about 10% that of the U.S. Given the U.S. statistics, I fully expect that the accurate toll here is indeed much closer to the 6 million I stated.

        Thank you for the opportunity to respond.