Re: “Right Minded: An offensive motion” by Brendan Steven (09.02.10) Columnist Brendan Steven makes an argument that the upcoming (as of this letter) General Assembly motion on discriminatory groups constitutes a vote on freedom of speech. However, his analysis is significantly misguided.
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Has history not taught us anything? Aren’t we the ones who hold our predecessors accountable for the human rights atrocities that occurred due to their complicity in events such as European anti-Semitism, the centuries of slave trading, and most recently, the Rwandan and Darfur massacres? How contrite do we feel that past generations stood idly by and permitted Apartheid in South Africa? Better yet, why do we still slip into a vacuum of radical nationalism that blinds objective thinking? It’s as though we have yet to learn that this road will only lead to self-destruction – but somehow we keep submitting to this primitive train of thought.
Over the past four years, I have alternated between feelings of repulsion and uncertain excitement when thinking about graduate school. After attending the department of English Symposium – an event where English professors present the papers they have been working on – I experienced these feelings side by side and learned that conflicting feelings, if they had a colour, would be the baffling tint of ashy water.
In last Thursday’s McGill Daily, Sana Saeed wrote a General Assembly follow-up column in which she boiled down the cause of passions over the Middle East conflict to identity politics, and claimed that clampdowns on campus debate amount to a second front of the conflict here at McGill.
Stereotypes can sometimes be funny. Although insensitive and often in bad taste, where would “guy-walked-into-a-bar” jokes be without them? Despite their comedic value, the Olympic Games are not an appropriate forum for stereotypes, and it would be far beyond good taste to greet the Italian teams with pizzas and Mario Kart.
What the hell was that? My first General Assembly is, of course, today’s topic. But don’t go! I understand your weariness – the front page article, the editorial, and all the guest commentary pieces from student politicians with an overestimation of their own importance, as if we the constituents waited impatiently all weekend for their straight-talk account of things.
Re: “Why Gaza Remembrance Week misses the point” by Adam Winer (09.02.10) Mr. Winer seems to have entirely missed the point in believing that SPHR should be neutral in its display and presentation of speakers for the Gaza Remembrance event. When an entire population becomes the target of Israeli amunition and unjustified sanctions, then logically people have to stand up in defence of human rights and to lobby governments and intellectuals to stop the suffering of the Palestinian people.
I am worried about the future. There are many things that make me think that the future will not be as exciting as Back to the Future 2 and The Jetsons, such as global warming, international strife, the possible collapse of capitalism, and other similarly serious problems.
Although I’ve played team sports since I was old enough to don a pinny, I’m usually quite awkward in locker rooms. Part of it has to do with my upbringing. My family was never a particularly naked one – we didn’t do a lot of topless sunbathing in the backyard or play nude family Monopoly – so nakedness has always startled me.
SSMU further resolves to condemn any group, student association, or organization whose goals and methods compromise the safety and health of any person or engage in acts of discrimination such as, but not limited to, pro-life groups; SSMU will not grant full or interim club status to any such group.
SSMU further resolves to condemn any group, student association, or organization whose goals and methods compromise the safety and health of any person or engage in acts of discrimination such as, but not limited to, pro-life groups; SSMU will not grant full or interim club status to any such group.” – Motion Re: Discriminatory Groups.
Tomorrow, at the Students’ Society Winter General Assembly, students will have an opportunity to vote on freedom of speech. Very rarely in our lives do we get such an opportunity, as most of us are fortunate to come from liberal democratic countries – where our right to stand up and speak our minds is held dear.
But on Wednesday, a motion will be presented at the GA entitled “Discriminatory Groups” that threatens those very rights. This motion makes some wild claims. It claims that denying a woman access to abortions is “an act of discrimination.” On the grounds that pro-life groups are therefore “discriminatory,” it seeks to alter SSMU’s equity policy to include a clause that would prevent SSMU from granting full or interim club status to any pro-life group. The motion also claims that Choose Life utilized coercive tactics at the now-infamous “Echoes of the Holocaust” event.
This entire motion offends me.
The claim that pro-life groups are fundamentally discriminatory is absurd. It has no rational justification. I make this statement as a person who is fundamentally pro-choice. But that doesn’t prevent me from understanding the sincere arguments of the pro-life side of the debate. How is the belief that a fetus is a child discriminatory? Whether life begins at conception is both a scientific and a spiritual question, not a question of sexism.
Furthermore, the notion that Choose Life utilized “coercive” tactics at its “Echoes of the Holocaust” event is obscene. The event was open to anyone who wanted to attend. If you felt insulted by the notion of an academic comparison of genocide to abortion, then you didn’t have to go. “Echoes of the Holocaust” was not the first time a group has invoked the Nazi genocide: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launched a “Holocaust on your Plate” campaign in 2003, in which they compared factory farms to concentration camps. While I disagree with their message with every fibre of my being, it’s PETA’s right to make the comparison, just as it was Jose Ruba’s right to do so at “Echoes of the Holocaust.” No one hired a political correctness police force to shout him down. No one has the right to shut him up.
In fact, the only people “coercing” anyone at that presentation were the protesters who interrupted Ruba by singing and yelling for two hours, silencing debate and denying their fellow students a forum for their opinions.
Canada has a wonderful legal document called the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That document ensures four fundamental freedoms – the four most significant freedoms a human being can exercise.
The first is freedom of conscience and religion. Those against abortion are free to hold that moral belief, as they are free to practice any faith that opposes abortion.
The second is freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression. Those opposed to abortion have the right to think that abortions are wrong, and they have the right to tell people that they think so.
The third is freedom of peaceful assembly, and the fourth is freedom of association. Those against abortion have the right to create an organization based on that belief, and no one has the right to stop them.
With the stroke of a pen this resolution promises to suffocate the fundamental freedoms of any pro-life student who comes to this school. Think I’m being a hack for quoting the constitution? This seems like one of the rare occasions where it is incredibly appropriate.
I strongly encourage anyone who loves their fundamental freedoms to come to the GA and vote no to this resolution. It offends the very rights its authors are trying to protect.