Pro-life advocates popping up on campus
The SAIT Academic Faculty Association (SAFA) filed a grievance against SAIT on behalf of an instructor exposed to graphic images displayed by anti-abortion advocates inside the Aldred Centre.
The anti-abortion group, the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, was on campus on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The group had graphic images accompanied with a warning sign describing their content. The group was on campus again on Wednesday, Nov. 29 in the Irene Lewis Atrium in the Stan Grad building.
“It was about the graphic images and the fact that this isn’t the place for that type of activism. This is an outside group – it’s not a SAIT sanctioned students’ club,” said Al Brown, SAFA labour relations officer.
One instructor was left distraught and upset by the event, resulting in classes getting cancelled.
“It’s not about the abortion debate, it’s about what’s appropriate in a public space and what’s appropriate in a cafeteria setting,” said Brown.
Brown said after reaching out to SAIT, SAFA was told that while the group was not invited on campus, they were legally allowed to be at SAIT because it is a public space. Brown said he was also told the campus did not want to infringe on the group’s freedom of expression.
Rachel Dalcin, a member of CCBR, described the group as a pro-life organization centred on ensuring all human beings have equal rights. This includes the “pre-born.”
The group focuses on showing the visuals of what happens in abortions because, “the reality is a gruesome one,” said Dalcin. She said that the group wants people to think of these images when making the decision to have an abortion.
“We go to a variety of different campuses. This is a demographic of people who might be considering abortions now or in the future. It’s very important that they see what abortion does to pre-born children,” said Dalcin.
The grievance is being filed against SAIT because the campus is SAIT’s property, SAFA is arguing that as an employer, the post-secondary is legally required to provide a safe workplace that protects employees from gender-based harassment.
“By failing to expel these people from SAIT, SAIT failed to provide [the instructor] with a safe workplace and failed to prevent the gender based harassment at the workplace,” said Brown.
The advocates were on campus legally because SAIT did not exercise it’s right to block the group from trespassing on their property. Brown said this is a breach of the collective agreement with faculty staff.
Brown said he was also concerned that one of the anti-abortion advocates was recording students, faculty and others when they were in the Aldred Building. He said that SAIT compromised the personal information of those on campus by allowing the anti-abortion group to film those present in the Aldred Building.
A complaint has been filed with the Alberta Privacy Commission by an instructor as a result.
Shona White, SAITSA assistant manager of marketing and communications, said she was concerned to see the anti-abortion advocates on campus in Aldred filming reactions from onlookers.
“There was no getting away from them. I pretty much just left,” said White, who has seen the group on 16th Avenue just outside SAIT in the past.
Multiple students have come to SAITSA to complain about the incident because it affected their student experience at SAIT.
“What effect did it have on people that aren’t stepping forward or just left? How many more people were effected that we don’t know about?” said White.
She said her concern was that having the anti-abortion advocates in the Aldred Centre compromised the safety of the campus.
“Students come here to learn. They didn’t pay tuition and sign up to be exposed to that without their consent,” said White.
“When they come to campus, which is supposed to be a safe space, it’s harassment.”
The SAITSA Executive Council does not support CCBR’s presence on campus. They said that their presence at SAIT is effecting students learning and has no place on campus because of this.
Concerns were also raised that these anti-abortion discussions are being instigated by non-student groups.
“There are avenues and these are discussion that do need to happen. These are discussions that people our age need to be having. But, is this the right way to go about? I’m not 100 per cent sure,” said Alysson Torres-Gillet, SAITSA VP academic.