Print Edition: April 1, 2015
The sunny afternoon of Wednesday, March 18 brought students outside on the Green — including Life Link, UFV’s pro-life group.
Just outside the doors leading to Tim Hortons, the event titled “You’ll never regret loving this much” had a booth complete with pamphlets, a large photo of a mother holding a newborn baby, guest speakers with personal testimonies on keeping their children, and plastic fetuses. Due to its location, club members met passersby at the intersecting paths — and some students were not happy about it.
Since the event two weeks ago, numerous upset students have emailed a formal letter of complaint to Student Life director Kyle Baillie. The letter states that the event was offensive in nature and was inappropriately executed.
Tamara Finnigan was one of those students. She says that because of the group’s placement in a high-traffic area, it was difficult to ignore the event.
“It was unavoidable,” she says. “People who have had abortions, or who have had to struggle with the decision in the past [would] have to pass by that to get to class.”
The letter Finnigan and other students sent to Baillie states that the group violated the Controversial Displays on Campus Policy and the UFV Harassment Policy.
“The psychological trauma many experienced was directly caused by the unavoidability of the booth, the sound used, and the methods of display. This event should have been held in a private area on campus (as was formally requested by concerned students beforehand) and not in a central area where everyone passing would be affected,” it says.
However, Baillie says the Life Link group acted within the parameters they were given: the group consulted Student Life beforehand, obeyed the noise restrictions, and did not physically block the path. He says Life Link has always followed these guidelines without any issues.
“I haven’t had any concerns with them. They’ve always done exactly as they’ve said they would. I thought it was appropriate,” Baillie says.
The UFV Life Link club is part of a larger non-profit organization called the National Campus Life Network (NCLN). Life Link’s written material, guest speakers, and campaigns are all arranged through NCLN.
Life Link president Raymond Kobes says he felt the event went well, despite a few visibly upset students.
“With every pro-life event, there are going to be some people who just jump to the issue regardless of what we’re showing,” he says. “They’re going to see us as a pro-life group and want to attack that or see it as controversial.”
He then went on to say that “You’ll never regret loving this much” was a positive improvement over previous pro-life events. Life Link held a very different campaign earlier this year in Alumni Hall with graphic imagery and negative stories from people who had regretted their abortions.
“I’m surprised [the complaints] are all coming this time,” Kobes says.
These booths are not uncommon in campus life; in February 2015, another NCLN group called Go Life from the University of Alberta campaigned against abortion using graphic imagery, and then received backlash in the form of a widespread student protest. Students argued that the pro-life group was doing more harm than good, as the psychological effects of seeing aborted fetuses were a harmful way of expressing their beliefs.
Finnigan says that for many students at UFV, this is also the case. She says that having these groups unavoidably placed is uncomfortable for those who have had experiences with abortion.
“Just the name of the event: ‘You’ll never regret loving this much,’” she says. “They’re shaming you if you’ve had an abortion. (…) That was really upsetting.”
She says that due to the nature of the topic, Life Link should host its events in a private area where students can choose to participate and not feel potentially harassed or shamed.
However, Kobes says shaming was not Life Link’s intention, and that the event was meant to support mothers and provide resources for those who want them.
“We’re trying to instigate a discussion, and if that’s what this will do, then that’s a positive, in the sense that it’s something that’s been thrown under the table for too long and we kind of want to bring it to the light,” he says.
“With this specific event, we’re trying to bring the loving side of things that has often been put to the side by pro-life groups.”
At time of print, Life Link doesn’t have more events planned in the near future. Baillie is responding to emails and redirecting students to the Human Rights and Conflict Resolution office to review the complaints and decide if the group has violated any UFV policies.
As for whether the group is overstepping boundaries, Baillie says discussions concerning controversial subject matter are important at a university — as long as they are kept respectful.
“Rather than shying away from or denying controversial topics, this is supposed to be the safe place to have that conversation.”