Education News – CFS takes stand against campus pro-life groups

York Federation of Students refuses to fund non-religious pro-life organizations

TORONTO (CUP) ? The Canadian Federation of Students have ratified a motion to support student unions that deny funding to pro-life groups.

Canada’s largest student lobby group passed the motion, which was brought forward by the York Federation of Students (YFS), at their semi-annual general meeting in May.

The YFS follows the footsteps of other student unions across the country by refusing to give money and resources to pro-life organizations. Unions at Lakehead University and Memorial University of Newfoundland passed similar motions this year.

Gilary Massa, YFS vice-president external, denies that the motion seeks to ban such groups from operating on campus since the YFS does not have control over the allocation of club space or whether or not a club gets official status.

?The only resources we have available to us are by the way of funding and by the way of staff,? said Massa.

?We have made a decision about how our funding and our resources as a union are to be used, and that includes when we fund clubs and what kind of activity we want to fund essentially. So we have decided that anti-choice groups on campus do not provide safe spaces. They don’t provide a vibrant campus and That’s not activity that we want to endorse.?

Margaret Fung, former president of Students for Bioethical Awareness (SBA), a pro-life organization at York University, says she is concerned that this decision was made without the knowledge of the SBA.

Despite this, Fung maintains that the SBA, which has been around since 2004, will be able to remain active at York.

?It’ll be difficult, but the thing That’s concerning me is the principle. That’s wrong?not giving us resources because there is a certain viewpoint that they don’t agree on,? said Fung.

?What’s the difference between funding us, perhaps obviously something that they don’t believe in, but in funding certain other groups that perhaps they don’t believe in but are still funding??

According to Massa many pro-life groups receive ample outside funding. Fung denies those allegations.

?We don’t get all the funding that people think we do,? Fung said. ?We raise it ourselves and a lot of the money actually came out of my and [former SBA co-president Maria Smolkova?s] pockets.?

Robert Tiffin, York’s vice-president students, expresses concern over the motion’s potential to limit debate and discussion on the abortion issue.

?There was not an opportunity for discussion with its membership on some of these important issues and we’ve heard this before. It’s always important to try and solicit input from your membership, whether it be the university administration or the YFS,? Tiffin said.

?There are students that may be supportive of the pro-life position that would want to have their views known too, and I think that my concern there is really related to the need for more discussion and consultation with the community.?

Massa says the YFS did not make this decision overnight. They did so using the mandate they received from the student body.

?That’s not a conversation that was started just a couple of weeks ago when this hit the news,? she said. ?The council has been elected and has the power to make decisions on behalf of their constituencies, and they voted overwhelmingly.?

Massa says religious student groups who take a pro-life stance will still receive YFS funding.

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