After a semester of meetings on the future of Choose Life – the controversial pro-life group whose club status was suspended last semester – the Students’ Society Council officially reinstated the group’s club status last Thursday.
Choose Life’s club status was suspended last year on November 12 in light of the conflicts surrounding the club’s “Echoes of the Holocaust” event. This was intended to be a temporary measure, however, until the Student Equity Committee could generate an appendix to the group’s constitution. As a condition of its reinstatement, Choose Life has agreed to adopt an appendix that would specifically govern how the club operates under the SSMU Equity Policy.
Since both Choose Life and the Equity Committee had agreed on this document prior to the meeting, there was little debate before Council passed the motion.
SSMU Vice-President Clubs and Services Sarah Olle expressed confidence that this document has cleared up some of the confusion stemming from Choose Life’s understanding of the SSMU Equity Policy.
“A lot of their complaints revolved around the ambiguity of our equity policy, or ambiguity of their actual violations of the equity policy,” Olle said. “It’s good that we have come to some sort of agreement on a black and white document.”
In particular, the document stipulates that “Choose Life will not advocate or lobby for the criminalization of abortion through the use of SSMU resources.”
“It’s really important that resources from student fees are allocated in a way that reflects our policies, constitution, and ethical practices,” said VP University Affairs Rebecca Dooley. “However, if a group wants to take a position, we cannot prevent them from taking that position as long as they are not using our resources to do so.”
Although Choose Life VP Internal Paul Cernek said that the negotiations had facilitated constructive dialogue, he felt that the clause restricting Choose Life from using graphic imagery in their events singled out the club unfairly.
“At some level this is a double standard,” Cernek said. “Other groups on campus use displays of graphic images in open, public spaces to further their points. Not even that anyone [from Choose Life] had an overwhelming desire at this moment to mount one of these displays. We just thought that we should have the right to.”
Olle, however, emphasized that in this situation the Equity Committee was acting as a regulator.
“We are not in the same position as Choose Life because we were in a position where we were enforcing something on a group that had committed a violation of our equity policy,” she said. “Of course, there was an effort put toward getting cooperation from Choose Life and explaining why we would implement certain regulations but at the same time they were being regulated.”
Cernek said he is hopeful that this appendix will help strengthen relations between SSMU and Choose Life next year.
“This should help things go more smoothly,” he said. “Things have been pretty rocky at times. The whole process we went through with the Equity Committee, working with them in close contact, really helped both parties come to an understanding with each other. They want us to keep being able to be a club; shutting down a point of view is not at all their goal.”