Conservative McGill helped Choose Life defy their suspended club status today with a display marking the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that struck down abortion laws in Canada.
SSMU Council voted to suspend the club’s status on November 12. Since the suspension entailed the loss of Choose Life’s tabling privileges, Conservative McGill booked a table for the pro-life group to feature their display at the Y-intersection.
Choose Life president Natalie Fohl explained that the decision to team up arose out of discussions between the groups and Conservative McGill’s sympathy for Choose Life’s precarious place on campus.
“Conservative McGill – of which I am a member – booked this space. That doesn’t mean that they endorse [Choose Life],” she said. “Conservative McGill was willing to [book a table] because they believe that we should have a space on campus, and since we don’t right now, they were willing to help us out with that,” Fohl added.
Fohl also explained that despite the suspension, Choose Life continues to exist as a collective of like-minded students.
“If you want to think of Choose Life as just a group of pro-life people right now, that’s probably a more accurate way to think about us,” she said.
The table was staffed exclusively by members of the suspended club. They began tabling at 10 a.m. and continued into the early evening.
Sarah Olle (VP Clubs and Services) was unaware of the collaboration until she was notified by a text message from a SSMU councilor at 2:32 p.m. Although Olle works closely with student clubs, tables are booked through a separate body.
Olle explained that while Conservative McGill’s decision did not violate any policy, she was frustrated with Choose Life’s tactics.
“That definitely is frustrating and I would say that [Choose Life has] used Conservative McGill’s club privileges to their advantage,” Olle said. “I think that they are still very determined to question abortion and are still definitely making a splash on campus. Even though their club status is suspended, they found another group who may be allied with their views and are using that [to their advantage],” Olle said.
The SSMU Equity Committee has met with members of Choose Life three times to discuss how the club can abide by the guidelines of SSMU’s constitution and equity policy. Their most recent meeting was this past Friday.
But Sarah Woolf, an Arts Senator who sits on the Committee, thinks Choose Life’s recent acts will impede the process.
“What this demonstrates is that Choose Life is willing to act in a roundabout way to act as a club…. It just does not demonstrate good faith in the equity process that we’ve all come to the table for and I’m disappointed that they’ve chosen to do that,” Woolf said.
“I think the Equity Committee will be very firm about the fact that that was an unacceptable move on their part,” Woolf added.
The Committee’s January 21 report was written by Jonathan Hann, the SSMU Equity Commissioner. In the document, Hann wrote that he was “very confident in the abilities of the Equity Committee and Choose Life to create a solution to the equity complaints we
have had thus far and foster an environment of respect and safety for all students in the future.”
Thursday’s display featured poster boards with information on abortion in Canada. One board was reserved for students to post sticky notes voicing their opinions on the abortion debate.
Fohl said the display was intended to be thought-provoking and foster dialogue.
“The Morgentaler decision…means that at the federal level, there’s a vacuum in terms of abortion law: it’s neither legal nor criminal and that persists today and I think a lot of people don’t know that. We’re here to raise awareness but also to promote discussion,” she said.
Not all students were interested in discussion. Fohl said that around 4:15 p.m., a passerby turned over the table, damaging the display.
Fohl added that future initiatives for members of the suspended club include a research group that will assess the resources available for parents and pregnant students at McGill.
“We’re going to compile that information, [firstly] to make it available, but also to assess the situation, see if it’s adequate, and if it’s not, advocate for changes,” Fohl said.