Pro-life group wins appeal against $17,500 protest security fee at U of A

An image of an informational booth run by the UAlberta Pro-Life group. The group has won a challenge against a security fee implemented against it by the University of Alberta. Facebook / UAlberta Pro-Life

A pro-life group has won an appeal in Alberta’s highest court, against a University of Alberta security fee that the school had implemented following a controversial protest in 2015.

The decision comes after more than four years of back and forth court issues between the university and the UAlberta Pro-Life group.

The initial 2015 protest from Pro-Life saw a large display that featured images of fetuses put up in the university’s main quad, leading to a large counter-demonstration from other students and faculty.

Then in 2016, when UAlberta Pro-Life applied to hold another anti-abortion protest, the university said that the group would have to pay $17,500 for security fees.

Unable to pay this fee, the group was forced to cancel its planned protest.

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READ MORE: ‘We feel as if we’re being made to pay for our free speech:’ anti-abortion group on U of A security cost estimate for event

Pro-Life then sought a judicial review of that fee, as well what it said was a lack of discipline from the university towards the counter protests, which Pro-Life said went against the University Code of Student Behavior.

“In issuing this demand [of the fee], the University of Alberta ignored the fact that any threat to safety and security that may have existed on campus came uniquely from those who physically obstructed and loudly interrupted a university-approved event,” said lawyer John Carpay, who is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represents the students in their court action.

LISTEN BELOW: Danielle Smith speaks with Jay Cameron with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom

Both the initial court challenges were dismissed in 2017 when Justice Bonnie Bokenfohr ruled that UAlberta Pro-Life was treated fairly and the university was within its right to require the club to pay for security if it wanted to hold another protest.

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READ MORE: No review of how University of Alberta handled anti abortion group’s demonstration

On Monday Jan. 6, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled in favour of UAlberta Pro-Life in regards to the security costs issues.

In the decision, the court also ruled in favour of the university regarding the complaint around discipline.

A university spokesperson said in a statement Monday that “the University of Alberta will be reviewing the decision in detail and therefore reserves further comment at this time.”

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