In 2010, the latest year on record, over 64,641 abortions were carried out in Canada, excluding those in Quebec and women who had abortions but were not Canadian citizens. Even with underrepresented figures, it is estimated that a total of over three million abortions have taken place in Canada since 1969, when it was decriminalized.
On the flip side, we have rising incidents of anti-abortion violence. Although more common in the United States, there have been reports of it in Canada as well. Abortion is often an issue that gets swept under the rug in conversations due to its ability to stir up aggressive reactions from both sides of the fence.
Last year, there was controversy surrounding the Trent Lifeline group. They were initially denied club status by the TCSA. After deliberation over the course of the past year between the TCSA, Trent Lifeline, and university administration, Lifeline was finally granted club status.
There are conflicting views as to why they may have been denied status in the first place. Lifeline President Heather Anne Robertson expressed general confusion toward the reasoning behind the denial. TCSA President Ben Perry stressed that Lifeline was denied status because of a failure to prove that risk management precautions had been taken.
There have been instances where simple protest or imagery have been offensive, and even inflammatory, to certain groups of people. For this reason, it is important for risk management purposes that certain precautions be taken to inform attendants of the event content.
Perry likened it to a horror movie, “You go to a horror movie knowing what to expect, therefore there is no cause for a negative reaction if advanced notice is given.”
Previous TCSA administration also feared that the club would not be inclusive due to a $5 membership fee that was deemed unnecessary. However, it was not believed the club itself was inherently exclusive in nature. The executive simply felt that the language used in the application could be perceived as exclusive.
According to Perry, the previous executive also had concerns over issues that would be raised with public education.
“The original constitution included ‘providing information on issues such as abortion and euthanasia, developing pro-life leaders by educating our members, and offering support by directing people to various pro-life resources such as crisis pregnancy centres.”
Lifeline is associated with national campus life network (NCLN). This group states on their website, “An active pro-life presence is needed to promote ideas and values that embrace the objective truth that all human life is worthy of protection.”
Clarifying this year’s TCSA exec.’s feelings towards Lifeline, Perry said: “there are still lingering concerns about where education is coming from … it has to be seen as a supplementary education tool.
“It is a little concerning that it is coming from students … students must be aware that this education is not coming from a professional, such as Trent Health Services, Trent Counselling Services, or Trent Spiritual Services.”
Misunderstandings led to Lifeline seeking legal action against the TCSA. Eventually discussions ensued between all involved parties and the issues caused by breakdown in communication were swiftly solved. Although that issue may have been resolved, there are still major obstacles that stand in the way of Trent Lifeline.
The assumption made by numerous members of the student body is that Lifeline is a conservative group pushing an anti-choice agenda. President Robertson insists this is a misnomer and emphasizes that although many members of the group may hold pro-life ideals, the vision is to create an open space for dialogue. She is hopeful that people will recognize this and choose to express their views on the issue in a respectful and constructive manner.
Perry also shares this hope and promises that should any club on campus fail to comply by the rules of risk management, they will face consequences such as reduced funding or revocation of status.
The university administration maintains the perspective that they search for a balance between an environment in which all kinds of issues can be explored while ensuring that chances of individuals being harmed is significantly minimized.
When asked to comment on the issue, Associate Vice President of Students, Nona Robinson, said, “There is a concept in student leadership called ‘controversy with civility’ that can apply to this.
“In effect, different opinions, values, and beliefs will always be with us, but it is engaging civilly that leads to dialogue. The issues that Lifeline is involved with, such as abortion and euthanasia, are critically important to many people, so it is understandable that the club’s activities have the potential to be provocative if the issues aren’t handled with respect.”
She continued to stress that joint efforts will be made by the administration and TCSA to create a framework within which provocative groups can operate with no collateral damage.