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BCCLA and Cameron Côté v. University of Victoria

The BCCLA and a member of a University of Victoria pro-life club (Youth Protecting Youth) filed a constitutional lawsuit naming the University of Victoria and its Student Society, seeking relief from the persistent, illegal censorship of the civil, peaceful expression of pro-life opinion on the campus.

The claim centred on the University’s attempted cancellation of a “Choice Chain” event, and its threats to punish students who participated in similar events in the future. The University purported to cancel the event because the Students’ Society characterized pro-life advocacy as “harassment.”

The BCCLA and Mr. Côté argued that in regulating the use of common space in the university, and in the imposition or threatening of discipline for non-academic offences, a University performs a function that is governmental in nature and that its actions are subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The BC Supreme Court issued its decision in January 2015, holding that that space booking by students on campus is part of “a sphere of autonomous operational decision-making reserved for the University” and not an exercise of governmental power. As a result, it concluded that “the Charter does not apply to the [University’s] activities relating to the booking of space by students.”

The BCCLA has a long history of pro-choice advocacy and action. We regard safe, effective access to abortion as a civil right – both as a matter of democratic principle, and as a fixture of Canadian law. However, the BCCLA also stands strongly for the right of students to express themselves in the university environment, whatever their opinions.

The petitioners BCCLA and Cameron Côté were represented by Craig Jones, Q.C. of Branch MacMaster LLP and Emily Unrau.

Read the petition here
Read the BC Supreme Court’s decision here