Laurier Students for Pro-Choice fight for rights on campus

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Photo by Safina Husein

Representatives from Laurier Students for Pro-Choice recently met with the Student’s Union on Tuesday Nov. 30 to discuss the chalking demonstrations displayed by Laurier LifeLink.

On Oct. 24 at 9:30 a.m. a message was sent from Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing (CPAM) to Laurier waterloo campus students regarding a Laurier LifeLink demonstration taking place on the public sidewalks in front of Lazaridis Hall and in front of the main entrance to the Waterloo campus.

This demonstration created by Laurier LifeLink – a club funded by the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union – consisted of written messages on sidewalks, all pertaining to the topic of abortion.

Brooke Dietrich, one of the members of Laurier Students for Pro-Choice, explained that they were shocked that this demonstration was happening on campus.

“Laurier Students for Pro-Choice is a group of students who have come together over the topic of bodily autonomy and the individual’s right to choose, we formed over the Pro-Life demonstration which took place [in] late October,” Dietrich said.

“We received the Facebook notification on behalf of the Students’ Union and were startled [that] this was happening on the Laurier campus.”

In order to combat the demonstration from Laurier LifeLink, Laurier Students for Pro-Choice participated in a counter protest demonstration and started a Change.org petition, aiming to hold the Students’ Union accountable for protecting students on campus.

Members of the Laurier Students for Pro-Choice have since sat down with Kanwar Brar, president of the Students’ Union, and other members of the Students’ Union to discuss the Pro-Choice petition and the group’s beliefs that the Laurier LifeLink chalking demonstration was harmful to student’s emotional and mental wellbeing.

Alicia Hall, a student coordinator for Laurier’s Centre for Women and Trans People, stressed the four main points outlined in the Laurier Students for Pro-Choice groups petition.

“There were four main points [addressed in the petition],” Hall said.

“First [the petition asks that] they adopt a motion in taking a public pro-choice stance on issues of reproductive justice, and wouldn’t be supporting groups trying to take away those rights.”

“The second [request] is [to] suspend the funding that Laurier LifeLink receives … as a group that is being against reproductive rights, they shouldn’t be receiving funding through the students,” Hall said.

“[The Third] is prohibiting anti-choice events that are approved by the Students’ Union from taking place on public areas on our campus … that means that students should have a choice about whether they are engaging with this [content] or not,” Hall said.

“The fourth point – which the Students’ Union seems very open to – was that we asked them to implement a strike policy to ensure that there will be some kind of accountability after instances of harm.”

Laurier Students for Pro Choice also used this meeting with the Students’ Union to discuss their belief that that Laurier LifeLink was not upholding the Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy and Procedures part of the non-academic code of conduct.

“In particular we wanted to talk about them [Laurier LifeLink] violating the student code of conduct. We felt that the protest fell into that category of gendered violence because it was against an individual’s reproductive rights,” Dietrich said.

In order for a claim to go through on the Sexual and Gendered Violence policy, there would have to be a complaint made by one person against another person. The policy does not account for a particular group which is violating this policy.

“The referendum would have the same impact of that first ask in the petition … it’s essentially asking for that policy to support reproductive rights.”

“The sexual and gender violence policy is the right for a Laurier individual to not be harassed or judged [or otherwise harmed] … based on their gender or sexual orientation,” Dietrich said.

“Unfortunately, [Students’ Union president & CEO] Kanwar [Brar] let us know that, in order to pursue that, one individual would have to make a case against another single individual of the club, even though the club has to uphold those values.”

“[In order to] challenge them [as a club] we would need to challenge another person [individually],” Dietrich said.

Brar declined when asked by The Cord to comment on the story, but noted that “Any violations of the Gendered and Sexual Violence policy are adjudicated through the Dean of Students Office,” adding that “The Students’ Union, including the Clubs and Associations Department, is not an adjudicator of any university policy, including Gendered and Sexual Violence.”

Vice President of Laurier LifeLink, Jonah Vanleeuwen explains that the chalking display was meant to raise awareness on both the club and bioethical issues.

“Laurier LifeLink, in one of there mission statements, [says] that we are against abortion and euthanasia. The two [bioethical issues] that Laurier LifeLink mainly focuses on are abortion and euthanasia. It’s in our mission statement on our website,” Vanleeuwen said.

“The chalking display was mainly focused on various affirmations and slogans that were pretty much put on the sidewalk in order to help raise awareness on these different issues,” Vanleeuwen said.

Laurier LifeLink claims they are aware of the sexual and gendered violence policy and try their best to abide by the policies in place. They claim that they have worked with the Students’ Union to improve their demonstrations.

“We’ve done a lot of work with the Students’ Union, and we’ve done our best to adhere to any policies that are instate … we ran the chalking event by them [Student’s Union] and we’re doing our best in order to not come at this from a confrontational point,” Vanleeuwen said.

“We are not trying to harm women and we’re not trying to shame them in any way. The main goal of our club is to just raise awareness, and to get people thinking about this issue and, as we said, to educate people on the movement,” Vanleeuween said.

Moving forward, Laurier Students for Pro-Choice is planning to create a referendum question which is meant to ask for a policy from the Students’ Union stating that people [and] their reproductive rights are being supported.

“The Students’ union made it clear what they want and they aren’t going to make any changes unless the students themselves say that they want it. They didn’t accept the Change.org petition essentially because you can’t prove that those are Laurier students,” Hall said.

“The referendum would have the same impact of that first ask in the petition … it’s essentially asking for that policy to support reproductive rights.”

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