|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
The University of Victoria’s (UVic) Strategic Plan has three “Fundamental values”: “intellectual and ethical integrity, freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry, and equal rights and dignity of all persons.” These are meant to “inform all [the University’s] actions and are a prerequisite to fulfilling the purpose of the university.”
The purpose of the UVic’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy is “to prevent Discrimination and Harassment from taking place, and to act upon complaints of such behaviour promptly, fairly, judiciously and with due regard to confidentiality for all parties concerned.” UVic’s Equity and Human Rights office processes complaints, and works with students and staff, and their responsibilities include offering Confidential Consultations, providing all parties in the complaint with guidance and advice, and processing complaints fairly. Personal Harassment is defined as:
Personal Harassment : behaviour directed towards members of the University Community that would be characterized by a reasonable person as:
- abusive and demeaning; and
- threatening or intimidating; and
- either interfering with the targeted person’s participation in a University Related Activity or creating an intimidating, humiliating or hostile environment.
Personal Harassment is not:
- interpersonal conflict or disagreement;
- the use of appropriate evaluation or discipline; or
- action where the harm by any objective standard is fleeting.
The Discrimination and Harassment Policy does provide the following protection to academic freedom:
The university recognizes academic freedom as a fundamental value, and this policy shall not be interpreted or applied to impose on the legitimate academic freedom of any Member of the University Community…In exercising academic freedom, Members of the University Community must act in a responsible and reasonable manner and respect the rights of other Members of the University Community.
In May 2011, UVic passed a Student Non-Academic Misconduct Policy. Misconduct is defined as “including but not limited to “disruptive or dangerous behaviours”. Under “Implementation” the Policy says it will not be used in a way that:
- limits the President’s authority to deal summarily with any matter of Student discipline in accordance with the University Act;
- unreasonably limits demonstrations or assemblies that are safe, non-violent and non- destructive;
- unreasonably limits the free expression of ideas; or
- prevents any member of the University Community or member of the public from proceeding with criminal or civil actions independent of any action(s) taken by the University.
UVic does not have policies which explicitly permit the University to charge fees for controversial events.
UVic’s prohibition on harassment, which prohibits “interfering with the targeted person’s participation in a University Related Activity” amounts to an anti-disruption policy.
In the spring term of the 2012-13 school year, U-Vic cancelled an event planned by the campus pro-life group Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), an event which UVic had previously approved. UVic then disciplined YPY for proceeding with its event as planned and approved, which resulted in a court action against U-Vic by Cam Cote, then president of YPY.
In January of 2013, YPY submitted another formal booking request to the UVic administration, to conduct the same “Choice” Chain peaceful demonstration with signs and literature distribution on February 1, 2013. The request was submitted at least ten business days prior to the event. YPY club leaders met with U-Vic officials, did a full walk around of the approved location, and discussed various issues. U-Vic approved the event to go ahead on February 1, 2013, and YPY planned accordingly.
At approximately 4:30 p.m. on January 31, 2013, the day before this approved event was scheduled to take place, Jim Dunsdon, Vice-President of UVic Student Affairs and one of the representatives that YPY had met with in the planning of the event, phoned the president of YPY and informed him that their peaceful demonstration could not proceed because the UVSS had informed him that YPY, as a UVSS club, had been banned from hosting “Choice” Chain on campus. But UVSS’s purported “ban” (see fourth section of this report) had already expired.
Nevertheless, Mr. Dunsdon insisted that YPY’s approved event could not proceed unless the UVSS’s now-expired ban was “reversed”.
On February 1, 2013, eight members of YPY proceeded to do "Choice" Chain at the campus location approved by UVic, and conducted the event exactly as it had been planned and discussed.
On March 1st, 2013, the YPY club president received a letter from the UVic administration stating that because YPY had held an unapproved public event, UVic was taking away YPY's public booking privileges for one year.
These events culminated in YPY launching a court action against the University. The BC Court of Appeal heard oral argument on February 4 and 5, 2016, and rendered its decision on April 18, 2016. The Court of Appeal dismissed the students’ argument that the Charter applies to public universities, ruling that public, taxpayer-funded universities are not government entities, and are not implementing government programs.
In the fall of 2012, YPY asked UVic administration for assistance in dealing with the censorship that YPY was being subjected to by the University of Victoria Students Society (UVSS) (see third and fourth sections of this report). YPY applied to book space on campus for a peaceful protest with signs, submitting a formal booking request. YPY’s protest is called “Choice” Chain and involves students holding signs with photos of abortion, and distributing literature. As part of its application, YPY explained to the UVic administration that UVSS had passed a motion denying YPY the right to organize “Choice” Chain on campus for the remainder of the 2012 calendar year. UVic denied YPY’s request for space on grounds that it had been submitted nine business days prior to the planned event, rather than ten business days as required by regulations. However, UVic administration told YPY that it supported YPY’s free speech rights on campus, and that YPY’s failure to submit its formal booking request ten days prior to the event was the only reason for the denial.
In the fall of 2010, the pro-life club Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) hosted a controversial presentation entitled “Echoes of the Holocaust.” The UVic administration rejected calls to cancel the event. In November of 2011, the University allowed YPY to book space in the Quad for their “Choice” Chain demonstration, rejecting the request UVSS which asked UVic to deny space to YPY.
In February, 2010, UVic’s Senate Committee on Awards rejected YPY’s attempt to establish a bursary for single mothers (funded by YPY, not by UVic) due to the “controversial” nature of the club. UVic’s Secretary asked a student member of this Committee to refrain from speaking to media about anything which happens in UVic committees.
After YPY sued UVSS and had their club status and funding reinstated (summer 2010) they resubmitted their bursary application to UVic, and the application was approved.
After Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) sued the UVSS in 2010 and was reinstated as an official club (see more on this in Section 4), the UVSS continued to receive complaints from pro-choice students about YPY’s posters (which did not feature graphic content) and the “Choice” Chain demonstration held in November, 2011.
In response to complaints about the posters, the UVSS passed the following poster policy on February 20, 2012:
All postering in the SUB and on UVSS poster boards located in the University must be in compliance with University Policy BP3105 Building Usage.
Posters which have the effect or purpose of unreasonably creating a hostile, intimidating, threatening, or humiliating environment will not be approved for posting. In the instance that UVSS Info Booth staff are uncertain whether a poster meets this criteria, they shall consult with the Executive Committee for clarification.
Posters where the content discriminates against a person or group of persons on the basis of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, nationality, religion, family or marital status, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, age, sex, sexuality, gender, gender identity, appearance or conviction for a criminal charge will not be approved for posting...
In instances where posters that violate the terms of this policy are stamped for approval, they may be removed at the discretion of the Executive Committee. If a poster is removed, the Executive Committee must inform the Board of Directors and the group or individual who put the poster up. The decision of the Executive Committee may be appealed to the Board of Directors.
UVSS has a Clubs Policy, the purpose of which includes supporting “ideological diversity” and promoting “an environment within which all members of the University Community can fully participate in respectful debate and the sharing of ideas.” The UVSS Clubs Policy defines Harassment as:
the abusive, unfair, or demeaning treatment of a person or group of persons that has the effect or purpose of unreasonably creating a hostile, intimidating, threatening, or humiliating environment. It is not necessary for the club or club representative to intend for the conduct to produce feelings of fear or intimidation, only that the club or club representative reasonably ought to have known that the conduct would cause such feelings.
Part F of the Clubs Policy prohibits clubs from engaging in harassment, defined as “the abusive, unfair, or demeaning treatment of a person or group of persons that has the effect or purpose of unreasonably creating a hostile, intimidating, threatening, or humiliating environment.”
The UVSS Issues Policy sets out positions that the UVSS takes on public policy issues. For example, the UVSS opposes “the implementation of any new abortion law,” supports Canada’s withdrawal from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Northern Radar Air Defence,” and opposes “the militarization of Canadian Society”.
UVSS’s Electoral Policy limits the number of banners and posters a candidate can have and requires that candidates comply with the Poster Policy above. Candidates are also limited in the amount of money they can spend on their campaigns.
On October 7, 2015, the Undergraduate Political Science course union, a registered group with the UVSS, received approval for a grant from the Course Union Council, an administrative body of the UVSS. The Course Union had applied for a grant from the UVSS to assist with costs related to hosting the annual conference of the National Political Science Students Association. The topic of the conference, running January 27-31, 2016, was “Modern Discourses on Sovereignty: Land, Bodies, and Borders”.
On November 2, 2015, at the meeting of the UVSS Board of Directors where the Course Union Council’s grant was to be voted upon, a representative of the Native Student Union, a registered student group on campus, took issue with the conference title and “could not condone funding a conference on sovereignty when nobody involved in the planning reached out to indigenous groups on campus for their consent.” The UVSS Board voted unanimously to reject funding for the conference.
In December 2012, the UVSS Board passed a motion finding that the Catholic Students' Association (CSA), a UVSS club, had violated the UVSS Clubs Policy by distributing three leaflets during Clubs Days, entitled “Pure Manhood,” “Pure Womanhood” and “Pure Love.” The ruling came after complaints about the pamphlet were submitted to Megan Quigley, the UVSS Director of Student Affairs. The complaints were discussed by the UVSS Complaints Committee in camera, but the motion implies that the club’s leaflets were considered “harassment” by UVSS. UVSS mandated that the CSA write a formal apology to the student population for distributing the leaflets, and has also requested that the CSA “engage in a conversation facilitated by an external party regarding oppressive language, systemic violence and consent,” to which club members did not comply. CSA members planned to appeal the decision at an October 17, 2013, Annual General Meeting of the UVSS, but the meeting failed to reach quorum. Further attempts were made by UVSS to hold a meeting to discuss the appeal, but quorum was not reached on either occasion.
After UVSS Board of Directors elections in 2014, the new Board voted to rescind the December 2012 motion against the CSA.
In February of 2012, the UVSS Board, on recommendation from its Complaints Committee, passed a motion of censure against Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), removing their booking privileges for public spaces (the club is still able to book rooms in the SUB) and removing their ability to put up posters until the Board passed a new policy on the content of posters. This decision was made after the Complaints Committee found that YPY’s November 2011 “Choice Chain” demonstration constituted “harassment”. The UVSS claims in a November 2013 affidavit that it received 24 “major complaints” from students about the November 2011 Choice Chain. YPY’s postering privileges were reinstated when the Board passed their new policy, which applies to all clubs, restricting the content of posters.
UVSS intervened against YPY in January of 2013 when YPY tried to reserve space through the UVic Student Affairs for its “Choice Chain” event. UVSS Executives sent a letter to the UVic’s Vice President Student Affairs, Jim Dunsdon, informing him that providing YPY with space would violate the prohibitions UVSS had passed against YPY in February 2012. UVic ultimately sided with UVSS and withdrew its approval of space for YPY’s “Choice Chain.”
On October 24, 2011, the UVSS Board of Directors voted to prevent Greek Letter Organizations (GLOs, referring to fraternities and sororities) from booking tables in the Student Union Building. The motion reads:
Motion 2011/10/24: 14 – Orser/Hamdon
Whereas a directive was passed at the October 2010 Annual General Meeting during which 64.5 percent of students voted against the recognition of sororities and fraternities; and
Whereas fraternities and sororities are exclusive organizations that are not inclusive of all students; therefore
BIRT the UVSS not enter into any contractual agreements with Greek Letter Organizations including, but not limited to, table bookings, room bookings, and advertising on UVSS premises;
A letter written by UVic Pride, one of the UVSS advocacy groups, that was circulated at the Board meeting, stated that simply seeing Greek letters displayed made some Pride members feel unsafe. The UVSS had previously voted to not recognize GLOs as campus clubs at an Annual General Meeting in October 2010.
At its May 16, 2011 meeting, the UVic Students’ Society Board of Directors passed a motion asking the University to include a declaration of students’ rights in its new Non-Academic Misconduct Policy. The UVSS requested that the Policy include the following:
Every student has the right to a University experience free from assault, harassment, intimidation, threats, bullying, hazing and coercion
Every student has the right to freedom from discrimination and harassment…
Every student enjoys within the University the freedoms of opinion, expression, belief and political association
Every student has the right to belong to any association of their choice and shall not be subjected to any prejudicial action by any member of the University community for so belonging
Every student has the right to assemble and participate in demonstrations
Every student has the right to enter or to refuse entering into an area that is undergoing a picket at the University directly or indirectly.
In November of 2010, the UVSS banned the sale of Macleans Magazine within the Student Union Building when the magazine refused to apologize for an article entitled “Too Asian.”
In the fall of 2010, responding to yet another complaint of “harassment” filed against YPY for having held a pro-life event on campus, the UVSS voted to “censure” YPY. This resolution carries no legal weight or practical consequences.
In September, 2008 the UVSS voted to deny funding to YPY because it was alleged that the group had contravened the UVSS Issues Policy on Gender, and some students claimed their activism constituted harassment. Funding was denied again in both winter and fall semesters of 2009. Funding was denied in the fall of 2009 because YPY had hosted a debate on abortion, another event that was alleged to “harass” students.
With the help of pro bono legal representation from Joseph Arvay, Q.C. and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the club commenced a court action against the UVSS in May 2010. The UVSS settled out of court in July, agreeing to return official club status to YPY, along with retroactive club funding, and the removal of policies within the Clubs Policy that specifically limited the speech of pro-life groups. The out-of-court settlement contains a clause that the court action against the UVSS will recommence if the UVSS removes club status or funding from YPY.