|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 has censored this group.
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]
Brandon University Students for Life (SFL) 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.
On October 17, 2017, SFL submitted a poster to BUSU in order to post it in the Knowles Douglas Student Union Centre. The poster contains two images of developing fetuses, followed by an image of forceps, a tool used to perform abortions. The caption reads “Growing…Growing…Gone.” The poster then states “Abortion Kills Children” and invites students to attend Students for Life’s next meeting.
On October 19, 2017, SFL received an email from Mohammed Agavi, Vice President External for BUSU, informing SFL that it could not post its posters in the KDC.
Mr. Agavi relied upon Policy #2016 which states that BUSU will not accept advertising that is “sexist, racist, homophobic, discriminatory or derogatory to any group of people.” SFL’s poster is not “sexist, racist, homophobic, discriminatory or derogatory”. Rather, Mr. Agavi states that SFL's poster was deemed to be “triggering, offensive and aggressive to a large member [sic] of the student body”. The Policy does not in fact prohibit expression deemed to be “triggering”, “offensive” or “aggressive”, terms with very subjective definitions.
Previously, 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, seeking 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.