A legal challenge of the Ryerson Students’ Union launched by an anti-abortion group at the university has failed.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice heard Grant v. Ryerson Student Union on December 18, 2015 and reached a decision on October 3, 2016. Ryerson students Carter Grant and Teresa Mervar from the group Students for Life at Ryerson (SFLR) were the plaintiffs in the case.
SFLR claimed that they suffered from discriminatory treatment based on their ideological beliefs and that the RSU’s denial of club status went against their freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter for Rights and Freedoms.
The RSU argued that SFLR’s anti-abortion activism stood in contrast with RSU’s Policy on Women’s Issues, which stipulates: “The Ryerson Students’ Union opposes… groups, meetings, or events that promote misogynist views towards women and ideologies that promote gender inequality, challenges women’s right to bodily autonomy, or justifies sexual assault.”
Justice Elizabeth M. Stewart dismissed the case and ruled that as a private non-profit corporation, the RSU has the ability to approve or deny clubs for funding based on whether their mandates and ideologies comply with RSU’s policies, considerations of the Ontario Human Rights Code, and Ryerson’s policies.
A portion of Stewart’s decision statement reads: “The Applicants are free to continue to associate and express themselves on the Ryerson campus. They are free to hold SFLR meetings, host events and raise funds for their cause. They are also free to seek office on the RSU executive and to attempt to implement policies that they prefer.”
RSU President Obaid Ullah and SLFR did not respond to The Varsity’s requests for comment.
The case’s outcome will resonate at UTM, where a similar case is underway. University of Toronto Mississauga Students for Life (UTMSFL) is currently suing the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), alleging that the union violated their own policies by not recognizing UTMSFL because of their stance on abortion.
The group accuses the UTMSU of silencing them by denying their requests for funding based on differing opinions, and tampering with their election of a fourth representative by allowing five non-members to vote, which resulted in a vote against the candidate.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom, a non-profit legal organization, is representing UTMSFL in the upcoming hearing, for which the date has not yet been set. UTMSFL previously told The Medium that the case has been pending the decision of the Grant v. RSU case to set a hearing date.
UTMSU President Nour Alideeb and UTMSFL declined The Varsity’s requests for comment.