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Court case against extra U of A security fees for pro-life demonstrations set to begin

Demonstrators at a pro-life rally in 2015. Global News

A two-day court hearing starts Thursday, for a University of Alberta pro-life group challenging a hefty security fee they need to pay if they want to put on another demonstration.

Back in 2015, demonstrators put up graphic images of abortions on campus grounds. Protesters disrupted them and blocked the images.

READ MORE: Planned anti-abortion display causes controversy on University of Alberta campus

As a result, the U of A announced that the pro-lifers would have to put up $17,500 to pay for security if they wanted to do it again.

John Carpay, the president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, said that conflicts with the students’ freedom of expression.

“There is a growing trend… to think that (people) have a right not to be offended by what they see and what they hear,” Carpay said. “And that’s very dangerous for a free society. Because if your freedom of expression can be curtailed just because somebody else finds your opinions offensive, you don’t have freedom of expression.”

Carpay added that if the challenge is not successful, it could set a dangerous precedent.

“If the University of Alberta wins this court case, it’s going to come back to haunt them,” Carpay explained. “Because it’s going to be become very clear to students at the U of A that anytime they disagree with a speaker, they can just shut (them) down and shut down the event… Students are going to learn very quickly that they can get away with that kind of conduct.”

He also thinks the demonstrators shouldn’t be on the hook for the extra security money.

“The university insists that it’s the students that want to exercise their legal right to express their opinions on campus, that have to be responsible for paying the money. What the university has not explained is why they’re not giving that $17,500 invoice to the blockaders who are the source of the problem in this situation.”

Carpay said everyone should be able to say what they want, no matter how controversial or unpopular.

He added that they will also be looking to challenge the decision by the U of A to not discipline any of the students involved in the blocking of the demonstration.

When asked how the students can afford legal representation but can’t afford the security fee, Carpay explained that his group is funded by donors across Canada, not by the students in question.

The proceedings will be carried out on Thursday and Friday, and Carpay says a decision could be rendered at any time after the hearing.

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