Laurier students petition for reproductive rights

Graphic by Madeline McInnis

 

A group of Wilfrid Laurier University students have created a Pro-Choice petition ensuing Laurier LifeLink’s recent chalk display as a call for enhanced accountability from the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union.

Laurier LifeLink, an anti-abortion club on campus, held a public demonstration on Oct. 24 and 25 which included a display of various slogans which were written onto the sidewalk in front of the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics main entrance and in front of the main entrance to the University.

The petition – which was created by Laurier Students for Pro-Choice and endorsed by Laurier’s Centre for Women and Trans People – ultimately argues that events similar to the chalking display held by Laurier LifeLink endanger the mental and emotional safety of some students at Laurier.

“The university is a place to discuss your ideas and [to try] to foster a sense of thinking and learning more about topics, so the fact that people want to defund our club because of what we think isn’t exactly what I thought university was going to be like,” Schuknecht said.

“What we’re trying to do is foster a culture on campus in which reproductive rights are respected and people can feel safe,” Alicia Hall, coordinator of Laurier’s Centre for Women and Trans People, said.

“There’s a lot of people that have had traumatic events in the past and this [demonstration] resurfaces those ideas and it can be very harmful to them to hear that their bodies aren’t their own and their choices aren’t their own.”

The petition asks that the Students’ Union adopt a “motion that instates a public pro-choice stance on issues of reproductive justice within the Students’ Union policy,” amongst other requests, including one to suspend the funding given to Laurier LifeLink.

“We will not be instilling a stance on taking a pro-choice stance as an organization,” Kanwar Brar, president and CEO of Laurier Students’ Union, said.

“The primary reason for that is us taking a stance like that alienates a part of the population which may not agree with that and our approach when it comes to taking a stance on contentious issues is that we don’t take a stance because our role is to support both sides.”

Prior to the chalk display, the Students’ Union had a meeting with Laurier LifeLink in which the Students’ Union brought forth some suggestions and guidelines to follow in order to mitigate harm.

Students behind the petition, however, claim that many of these recommendations were not followed by Laurier LifeLink. As a result, the petition asks for great accountability from the Students’ Union.

“We really feel like [Laurier LifeLink] didn’t follow through on a lot of those key issues and key problems so we want some sort of accountability on behalf of the Students’ Union,” Brooke Dietrich, third-year undergraduate student at Laurier in global studies and sociology, said.

Dietrich was part of the working student group behind the petition.

“There needs to be some sort of defence for people who have uteruses in the Laurier community and we’re not seeing that defence on behalf of the Students’ Union and that’s a problem.”

According to the petition, one suggestion made by the Students’ Union to Laurier LifeLink for the duration of the display was to refrain from approaching students and, instead, wait for people to approach them to have discussions.

“The problem with the chalking event … is that people don’t get to choose if they’re engaging with it. It’s simply forced upon them when they’re going to class,” Hall said.

In fact, Hall claimed that she was approached by a member of Laurier LifeLink during the chalk display as she was going to class.

“This isn’t something that someone should be forced to engage with when they’re simply trying to go to class,” Hall reiterated.

For Brar, however, the meeting with Laurier LifeLink did allow for some strides to be made in comparison to similar events which have been held in the past.

“There were a lot of concerns raised within the petition about how things may not have been executed properly, and we will do our due diligence to make sure that’s followed up with” Brar said.

In the same way, Laurier LifeLink also felt that the discussion prior to their event was helpful in mitigating harm.

“The purpose of any event that we have is to foster a positive, healthy discussion with students about the laws around abortion, or the lack thereof, in Canada,” Christine Schuknecht, president of Laurier LifeLink said.

“There are resources available to help you if you decide to keep your pregnancy … and we don’t want anyone to make a decision without knowing all of the facts.”

“The university is a place to discuss your ideas and [to try] to foster a sense of thinking and learning more about topics, so the fact that people want to defund our club because of what we think isn’t exactly what I thought university was going to be like,” Schuknecht said.

The students behind the petition say they will be meeting with the Students’ Union to discuss the issues presented in the petition next week.

“I understand the privilege I hold as someone who identifies as a male and I’m in a position of power, and I’ll never tell anyone including women and those with uteruses what to do with their body because that’s not appropriate for me to do so,” Brar said.

“As president, it’s also my responsibility to make sure I’m looking out for all students.”

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