May16, 2016

EDMONTON - A campus pro-life group has filed a lawsuit against the University of Alberta claiming it infringed on the pro-lifers' freedom of speech by charging the group a $17,500 security fee to host a public event on campus.

UAlberta Pro-Life filed the court action April 26 in Court of Queen's Bench. The group is asking the court to examine the legality of the security fees that forced the cancellation of a February event.

"Our freedom of expression has been violated," said UAlberta Pro-Life president Amberlee Nicol.

"First, when the university failed to provide a safe environment for free and open expression when they allowed students to obstruct our events . . . and because of the problems they caused through their inaction, they wanted to charge us with amounts in security fees that we simply could not afford to pay."

Nicol said the lawsuit was the result of year-long tension with the university which began when the group held a similar event last year, authorized and approved by the university.


UAlberta Pro-Life displayed signs showing the consequences of abortion at last year's event, which was violently shut down by a counter-demonstration of pro-choice students.

"Campus security was there but they didn't do anything," said Nicol. "They just kind of suggested, 'Hey you guys shouldn't be doing this,' but they didn't go any further than that."

Because of tensions from that event, when the group applied to hold a similar event Feb. 23-24, 2016, the university took extra measures.

Eleven days prior to the event, UAlberta Pro-Life treasurer Cameron Wilson received an email from the University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) with a security assessment and a bill for $17,500.

"My jaw just kind of hit the floor," said Wilson. "I thought this is an obscene number."

The security costs were to cover UAPS officers on special duty and Edmonton police, as well as a double-perimeter fence "ensuring that sidewalks remain unobstructed."

John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, has been the group's legal advisor. The Justice Centre has represented many pro-life student groups.


Carpay said that although court action is not the only way to hold universities accountable, it becomes the last resort for student pro-life groups.

"When you've got a very blatant violation of rights and you've got a refusal of the university to uphold the rule of law on campus, . . . you're in a situation where, as a last resort, you've got to go and seek a court order to tell the university to enforce its own code of conduct."

All allegations have yet to be tested in court.