The growing political correctness and intolerance at Canadian universities will be challenged in a Toronto courtroom, this Wednesday, January 24.
Kevin Arriola and Alexandra Godlewski are taking the Ryerson Students’ Union to court for having refused to allow the Men’s Issues Awareness Society (MIAS) to be a campus club.
Founded in 2015, MIAS seeks to raise awareness of the fact that men experience higher rates of suicide, homelessness, workplace injuries, and failure in school. A large portion of this student club’s members are women, including its current president, Sarah Hafizi.
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) is funded by mandatory fees, paid by students like Kevin, Alexandra, and Sarah. From these compulsory dues, RSU provides over $180,000 per year to student groups. Only recognized campus clubs can access these funds. Club recognition from RSU is extremely important, not only to obtain funding but to engage fellow students through advertising and campus events, such as sponsoring speakers and debates.
RSU recognizes over 80 different student groups, for example “Students for Justice Palestine” and “Students Supporting Israel.” While RSU can be commended for tolerating opposing views on the conflict in the Middle East, this tolerance does not extend to those who disagree with radical feminist ideology.
In 2013, RSU banned a campus pro-life club because it was pro-life. Since 2015, RSU has repeatedly rejected MIAS as a campus club, because some feminists see discussion of issues facing men and boys as an ideological threat.
In its own Policy Manual, RSU expressly declares its support for the Charter freedoms of expression and association. Nothing in RSU’s constitution allows it to ban a student group from campus because of the students’ beliefs and opinions.
To justify its rejection of MIAS as a campus club, RSU has claimed that there was no need for a men’s issues group at Ryerson because the Women and Trans Collective was already addressing men’s issues.
RSU further claimed that MIAS would “harass” women and make them feel “unsafe,” simply because of the factual issues that MIAS wished to discuss.
RSU objected to MIAS associating with the off-campus Canadian Association For Equality. Further, RSU demanded that MIAS acknowledge “the systematic privilege that men have.”
The student politicians in charge of RSU seek to create “safe” spaces, akin to intellectual playpens, where cherished notions are “safe” from reasoned debate and intellectual inquiry. For RSU, “safety” is jeopardized simply by the wrong kind of discussions.
Attending university is necessary to enter the teaching, legal, medical, accounting, and engineering professions, and numerous other fields of work. Attending university requires paying mandatory student union dues.
Students whose rights and freedoms are violated by their own student union have no recourse other than the courts. Judicial intervention is required to protect students from ideological coercion at the hands of student politicians who seek to enforce their own opinions as the only acceptable speech on campus.
Along with this claim against RSU, the court will consider two other cases against student unions. The student group Speak for the Weak was denied club status by the Student Association of Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
The Student Association claims that allowing a pro-life club on campus would constitute “systemic societal oppression”, and would violate “human rights”. Only “equity-seeking” clubs are allowed on campus. In similar fashion, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union prevented Students for Life from being a campus club, simply because student politicians disagree with the club’s position on abortion.
These three Ontario student unions are hostile to the free expression and debate of ideas on campus. They hate diversity of thought. They actively prevent discussion and debate, and thereby rob students of their right to learn to think independently.
Student unions are violating their own policies, constitutions and bylaws when violating the fundamental freedoms of students, who have no choice when it comes to paying student union dues.
The Court has an opportunity to stop this dangerous precedent, namely, the coerced adoption of select ideological viewpoints as a prerequisite for students to benefit from fair and equal treatment by their student unions on public university campuses.
Calgary lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (www.jccf.ca), which represents the students and student clubs referred to in this column, in their court actions against three Ontario student unions.