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The complaint about the university's $ 17,500 security charge for anti-abortion protests goes to the Alberta Supreme Court

EDMONTON – The Alberta Superior Court will hear a case on Wednesday that could help determine the power of the "meddlesome veto" on Canadian campuses after a university handed out a $ 17,500 security bill to students who wanted to organize an anti-abortion rally.

The fee was proposed after an earlier rally was interrupted by opposing protesters in favor of the election. In response, Amberlee Nicol, president of UAlberta Pro-Life, and Cameron Wilson, treasurer of the group, sued the University of Alberta for what they see as a simple problem of free expression. After the group of students lost in a lower court, they appealed to the Alberta Court of Appeals.

The university says the anti-abortion exposure was designed to elicit a response and that security costs are reasonable, while UAlberta Pro-Life says the heavy bill amounts to a "ban" in its speech.

"This is an extremely important case for several reasons," said Micheal Vonn, policy director of the Civil Liberties Association of British Columbia. , who is acting as an auditor for the two student protesters. "The university is not penalizing people who … tried to prevent other people from speaking, but will penalize the people who spoke."

The court case is based on the calculation of the university's security fee, whether or not it should have investigated the interruption of a previous anti-abortion protest and could touch the role of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on campus.

Can we download the police costs of his speech? Because your political opponents have chosen tactics that are silencing?

In 2015, UAlberta Pro-Life held a rally with a 700-square-foot exhibition with photographs showing developing and aborted fetuses. The rally, which took place in the university courtyard, got an organized response from professors, staff and students, who descended on the students against abortion with their own posters and posters, blocking the views of the exhibitions.

While there was however, there are no reports of violence per se. Many police and police intervened several times, according to court documents.

In response, UAlberta Pro-Life filed a complaint with the school's protective service, alleging that the student code of conduct had been broken. The university began to study it, but finally refused to continue with the investigation, or to accuse any of the contrarestantes.

While this process was taking place, UAlberta Pro-Life requested in January 2016 to hold another meeting similar to the first one. It was approved, but there was a warning: a $ 17,500 security bill to keep everyone safe, given the tensions in the previous rally. The anti-abortion group sought a review, but the decision of the university was final. To meet in the yard, they would have to write a check.

UAlberta Pro-Life responded by suing the University of Alberta for two things: the decision not to accuse protesters of violating the student code and the security fee. In October of 2017, the group lost in a lower court.

If it were some other problem, would it be justifiable? If they were women's rights, if they were LGBTQ rights, if it was science?

In the first topic, Judge Bonnie L. Bokenfohr wrote that "the Code does not create rights that claimants can enforce. "

In the second, Bokenfohr said" the decision that UAlberta Pro-Life pays the full cost is within the range of possible defensible acceptable outcomes with respect to the facts of this case and the law ".

Nicol and Wilson appealed the decision, Jay Cameron, a lawyer with the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms, who represents the students, says the trial judge made a mistake in his decision. challenge the university's decision not to charge students, the student's code of conduct creates rights that can be asserted against each other, and the university acted in bad faith, Cameron argues in court documents.

Courts should consider whether or not there are protections of the Charter for discourse on campus, the BCCLA says in its factum: "This issue is of substantial importance to the residents of Alberta and the others provinces of Canada. No rule or judicial policy justifies one side of this issue. "

While the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of expression, university decisions are not always subject to the Charter because they are not, at all. Their functions, considered government In other words, a decision that affects freedom of expression, such as holding a protest against abortion, on a university campus is not analyzed by the courts as a matter of the Charter. it is seen as an administrative problem, and the actions of the university are weighted according to whether they were reasonable or not.

The university argues that people who are upset by a protest can not be expected to be controlled, Cameron said, adding that it is unfair to have UAlberta Pro-Life pay for security.

"If it were some other problem, would that be justifiable?" Cameron said. women's rights, if they were LGBTQ rights, if it was science? "

The University of Alberta, which declined to comment, argues in court documents that students can not challenge the university's decision because the The student code "does not include the right to have complaints investigated or processed." He argues that even if Bokenfohr's reasoning was incorrect, the university's decision not to investigate or prosecute was reasonable, pointing out that there was no evidence that the anti-protesters behaved in a manner that was "criminal or tortuous".


. "Without a doubt, the appellants would have preferred that their message be communicated without interruptions, but a market of ideas does not lend itself to monopolies," the university says in court documents. . "The appellants now seek to obtain the benefit of that controversy without paying the corresponding cost."

In the court documents, Cameron says that this reasoning amounts to blaming the victim in a sexual assault case.

"The screen (anti-abortion) does not cause more danger (sic) than a pretty girl causes a violation," says the factum.

It was a mistake to ask UAlberta Pro-Life to pay for security, the anti-abortion group argues, since the misbehavior came from the other side.

"We're saying, 'Yes, you have freedom of speech as long as you can pay the tens of thousands of dollars in security fees.'" Vonn said.

"Can we discharge the police costs of speech because your political opponents? Have you chosen tactics that are silencing? "

• Email: tdawson @ postmedia .com | Twitter: tylerrdawson

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