|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
There is no mention of freedom of expression or academic freedom in the mission statement of Brandon University.
Brandon University’s Statement of Students Rights and Responsibility Policy denotes the value Brandon University places on freedom of expression:
Brandon University prizes and defends freedom of speech. It affirms the rights of its members to teach and learn in an environment free from coercive force, intimidation, and interference, and subject only to the constraints of reasoned discourse and peaceful conduct. Behaviour that violates this Principle shall be dealt with through the Student Discipline Process.
A document titled, The Principles By Which We Live: Brandon University, includes commitments to “promote the pursuit, advancement, and dissemination of truth and knowledge” and “encourage a climate of freedom, responsibility, and mutual respect in the pursuit of these goals.”
Brandon University has a Conflict Resolution Committee (CRC), Conflict Resolution Advisor (CRA), and an Investigator to deal with issues of Human Rights Harassment, Human Rights Discrimination, or Personal Harassment. Their roles are defined within the Respectful Environment Policy.
The Respectful Environment Policy under section 1.2 reads:
h) In administering this Policy, Conflict Resolution Committee (CRC) members, the CRA and Investigators, like all other officers of the University, are obliged to uphold academic freedom and freedom of expression and association, while recognizing that some limits apply to the exercise of academic freedom and freedom of expression and association.
The Respectful Environment Policy does not define specifically or with any clarity what “limits” the CRC, CRA, and Investigator are allowed to place on academic freedom and freedom of expression and or association. However, section 4.f) of the Policy adds:
Brandon University recognizes that as an academic and free community, it must uphold its fundamental commitments to academic freedom and to freedom of expression and association. Therefore, it will maintain a respectful environment in which students and teaching and non-teaching staff can engage in free enquiry and open discussion of all issues.
The authors are not aware of any cases of the University censoring students or campus clubs because of the content of their expression. However, Brandon University has repeatedly failed to speak out against the censorship undertaken by its student union, the Brandon University Students’ Union (BUSU), when BUSU twice denied certification to a campus pro-life club.
There is no mention of free expression or academic freedom in the mission statement of the Brandon University Students’ Union (BUSU).
The BUSU Policy #2016 – Advertising Guidelines states that “[a]ll advertising that is circulated, sponsored or created by BUSU and [sic] must meet the following general standards of respect as to form and content,” and includes content-based criteria for approving advertising materials:
BUSU will not accept advertising that is sexist, racist, homophobic, discriminatory or derogatory to any particular group of people. If such determination is called into question, acceptability shall be deemed by the Executive Committee, with a right to appeal to BUSU Council.
Policy #2019 – Inclusive Language forbids BUSU documents from including language deemed to be “discriminatory,” “sexist” or “homophobic” in nature. None of these terms are defined in BUSU’s Policies and Bylaws document. It appears that this Policy (#2019) only extends to official BUSU content, rather than its clubs and members.
Policies #’s 3001, 3002, 3003, 3004, 3005 and 3006 take official BUSU stances on issues including Canadian Blood Services, the environment, transportation, illegal drugs and ethical purchasing.
During elections for BUSU executive positions, candidates must have their campaign materials approved by the Returning Officer (RO). In The Bylaws of the Brandon University Students' Union, Bylaw 1030 (Campaign Materials) states:
5. The RO shall not approve campaign materials which:
contain libel or slander (based on consultation with legal counsel if necessary);
are factually incorrect; or
violate any federal or provincial statute, or any University rule, regulation, policy, or procedure; or
are sexist, racist, homophobic or prejudicial.
Bylaw 2500 – Student Group Recognition mandates that student group constitutions must “not contain any discriminator clauses and has no clauses that are contrary to any existing Canadian law,” “accords equal membership to any and all interested students,” and “does not contain any provision for its present or future affiliation with any organization that has discriminatory policies or practices as detailed by the Canadian Human Rights Code.” Bylaw 2500 also states:
7.e. membership of open membership student groups, including classes of membership, may not be restricted on the basis of ability, race, religions, political beliefs, sex, gender, age or sexual orientation, although they can exclude non-students from membership.
the student groups constitution must not contain any discriminatory clauses and has no clauses that re contrary to any existing Canadian laws and must not contain any provision for its present or future affiliation with any organization that has a discriminatory policies or practices as detailed by the Canadian Human Rights Code
membership of closed membership student groups, including classes of membership, may not be restricted on the basis of ability, race, religions, political beliefs, sex gender, age or sexual orientation. Notwithstanding this clause, closed membership student groups may restrict membership based on:
political beliefs, if the group has a particular political affiliation (such as the campus wing of an existing political party) or are focused around a particular political program expressed in their constitution;
ii. religious beliefs, if the group has a particular religion or are focused around a particular religious belief expressed in their constitution;
any other factor not mentioned above (such as academic program), although SGPA reserves the authority to disallow any student group from restricting membership on the above criteria or any other [sic]
The Brandon University Students’ Union (BUSU) has repeatedly censored pro-life groups on campus.
Brandon University Students for Life is a campus student group at Brandon University focused on generating debate and discussion on campus regarding euthanasia, abortion, suicide and other life issues. Students for Life has been active on campus since 2012, when it first sought student group status from BUSU.
In November 2015, BUSU revoked Students for Life’s student group status, without informing the Students for Life of its intentions to do so, and without providing any opportunity for Students for Life to defend itself. BUSU further failed to inform Students for Life that its student group status had been revoked.
Students for Life did not learn that its student group status had been previously revoked until January 2016, when its communications director Andrew Madill attempted to book space in the Mingling Area of the Student Union Centre. BUSU informed Mr. Madill that Students for Life no longer had student group status, and was therefore ineligible to book space in the Mingling Area, a prime location for student groups to engage their fellow students.
BUSU attempted to justify revoking Students for Life’s student group status on the following grounds:
In February 2016, BUSU told Students for Life that:
The removal of its student group status meant that Students for Life could no longer book meeting rooms from either BUSU or Brandon University, unless it paid booking fees that no other student groups are required to pay. Further, Students for Life lost access to numerous other benefits attached to student group status. Yet, Students for Life’s president Catherine Dubois and other members must still pay mandatory fees to BUSU.
The Justice Centre filed a court application on behalf of Students for Life against BUSU in July of 2016. In the court application, Students for Life seeks a Court Order that its student group status be reinstated, and that BUSU be prohibited from further illegal discrimination.
The court action was settled on August 24, 2016. BUSU agreed in writing to reverse its 2015 decision revoking Students for Life’s student group status, and to recognize Students for Life as an official student group in the 2016-2017 school year.
In September of 2013, BUSU formally granted club status to Students for Life. In so doing, BUSU reversed an earlier decision, made in January of 2013, denying Students for Life club status based only on Students for Life’s beliefs. In a Brandon Sun article published January 28, 2013, Carissa Taylor, then BUSU president, was quoted as follows:
…council felt a pro-life club would be “redundant” since the Women's Collective deals with all gender issues. BUSU decided not to give them official club status because we have other groups on campus that deal with women's reproductive rights and those kinds of issues.
Prior to this January 2013 decision, BUSU had already opposed the creation of a campus pro-life club. In August of 2012, BUSU’s then President Carissa Taylor and Vice-President External Suz Duff explained BUSU's opposition to a pro-life club as follows:
Carissa Taylor: Maybe it's playing it safe but you know going into this year I don't want people to have negative impressions of all of us, right? Like we haven't even started the school year, so....Like it's not that we as an organization disagree with your beliefs or anything we're just trying to think, I guess, of the political implications of doing that [granting Students for Life club status]...I don't think it's a bad thing.
Suz Duff: No. I mean after the strike last year and you know, BUSU got enough of a reputation, right? So, as a new counsel we are just trying to tread lightly and you know maybe stay out of some of the more contentious issues that...I don't know...It's a tough, a tough job, and it's tough deciding these things and like-like Carissa said, it's not that we disagree with your views. There are people in this office that are, you know, pro-life, and are people in this office that are pro-choice. And so we were just try'na balance it a little bit and be like, you know, it's kind of like you can have all or nothing. You can't just say, um, yes to a pro-choice group and no to a pro-life group or vice versa, right? Um, and we figured maybe it'd be easier to, if a pro-choice group wants to form or a pro-life group wants to form they can form as a community group, and targeting students, right, that might have similar beliefs.
Suz: …for you guys to start a group, um, like, anyone can form a group it's just...for us to recognize it sends out a message that we're not neutral. And then, you know, and then if we balance it out by someone who wants to start a pro-choice group then we're just, you know we are kind of just handing ourselves a big problem, and then you guys would have even more problems on your hands because you have a pro-choice group after you all the time. And you're going to going after the pro-choice group and...you know what I mean it would be like, like I just don't want that to happen to anybody, like it's just....people should be able to have their feelings and their opinions and not be attacked for them.
Carissa: But, yeah, like Suz said it just sends a message to students and we are just trying to be cautions of what kind of message we're sending and we don't want students, you know, to start rallying against you guys, us, or anyone else.
During the same meeting in August 2012, BUSU decided that Students for Life was not allowed to have a presence in the most common and well travelled area at Brandon University. Instead, BUSU offered space in a secluded and out-of-the-way part of campus, so as not to be so visible to a large number of passers-by. VP-external Suz Duff explained BUSU’s reasoning:
Suz Duff: Standing in there because it's kind of people can't really avoid that area. Like you have to pass through there to go to classes. Where as if you guys did something in the Elephant Room [a large room, isolated from well-travelled areas of the university] or where ever then people have the choice of walking up the stairs and going to it. And then you can tell people you made the choice to come here.
Carissa Taylor: Yeah and if you guys were to make specific requests for things too that might be more, I don't know, more controversial, we'll have more discussions about it.
In August of 2012, prior to the students’ formal application having been made, BUSU insisted that if the proposed club was officially registered, it would need to comply with additional restrictions not placed on other campus groups such as not handing out materials; not displaying graphic images; not being present in the common areas of campus; and no recruiting at club day.
By the end of the school term in April 2013, BUSU had still not granted the club its official status, and declared it would not do so because of changes to the executive, following student union elections in the spring of 2013. Further, BUSU hinted that it would continue with this discrimination and censorship in the upcoming 2013-14 school year.
On April 30, 2013 the Justice Centre sent a letter to BUSU, indicating that continued discrimination against Students for Life would result in a court application against BUSU. The Justice Centre’s letter explained how and why Students for Life is legally entitled to form a campus club, on par with all other campus clubs.
Students for Life had previously attempted to gain official club status in the 2009-2010 academic year. In September of 2009, Students for Life applied for club status. Students for Life’s first application was rejected on the grounds that their constitution was not “inclusive”.
In November 2009, Students for Life representatives met with BUSU and amended their constitution to meet BUSU criteria and re-submitted their application for club status. BUSU Council held a vote to determine if the group should be granted club status, and again denied club status to Students for Life.
In January of 2010, Students for Life requested a formal meeting to review their case and to understand more clearly the reasons behind thedenial. The reasons supplied for their rejection came from individual members of BUSU's executive since no official justification for the rejection was provided. Some of the reasons given by individual members of BUSU were that “they had the right to reject any group as they saw fit,” “they were afraid the group would use graphic imaging,” “they saw the group as anti-woman,” and “a pro-life group would take away women's rights.”