UTMSU has reportedly been served with a lawsuit in a case filed by a pro-life student group at UTM who claims that the union denied them club status and funding due to their views on abortion.
None of the allegations have yet been proven in court.
As reported by The Medium last Wednesday, UTM Students for Life filed a legal proceeding against the union demanding that UTMSU reverse its decision and allow them to receive club status and declare that their choice to prevent the group from receiving club status was a breach against their right to freedom of expression and association, and a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, among seven other petitions listed in the legal suit.
According to Diane Zettel, one of three applicants listed on the case and a fourth-year student at UTM, UTMSU was served last Wednesday at 2:45 p.m. The legal action was filed on January 15.
“The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union will not comment at this time on any pending legal action,” said UTMSU president Ebi Agbeyegbe in an email to The Medium late Friday. “We are proud to represent 13,000 undergraduate students at UTM and we will address this matter in the appropriate forum.”
Agbeyegbe did not confirm whether UTMSU had been served.
According to the suit, UTMSU originally rejected the UTMSL’s application to renew club status in July 2015 as “members of the [clubs] committee claimed to be concerned about the ‘political nature’ of SFL”.
According to Zettel, UTMSFL was an active student group at UTM in the 2014/15 academic year and received $250 in UTMSU funding that year.
The suit later goes on to quote an executive report by Russ Adade, UTMSU VP campus life, outlining the reasoning for the group’s rejected application.
“Students For Life, which has been recognized by UTMSU in the past, was not recognized for the upcoming school year due to their stance on abortion, in terms of being pro-life and using their platform to tell women what they should do in those situations,” reported Adadeat at the August 24 UTMSU board meeting.
SFL claims that two days later, the group received an email from Adade saying that he had denied their request for recognition because “SFL’s mandate was in direct conflict with the mission statement of UTMSU”, and adding that SFL could ask for a re-vote in the UTMSU board.
When asked for details about the group’s alleged conflict to UTMSU’s mandate, Adade said that it was because the group was “telling folks, especially women, what to do with their bodies”. The suit also quotes an excerpt from an alleged email from Adade on November 3 that says, “The reasoning behind the decision of the clubs committee to revoke club status for your club is due to the violations and discrepancies we found within your constitution in relation to the clubs handbook and UTMSU operational policy as it pertains to clubs.”
According to the suit, the group then proceeded to amend the eight constitutional issues identified by UTMSU.
The suit claims that at a meeting on November 6 with the UTMSU clubs committee, the clubs committee instructed SFL to elect a fourth member to their executive to ratify the changes to the SFL’s constitution. SFL claims that the clubs committee also requested that a representative of UTMSU attend the meeting.
The suit further alleges that Adade, who was present at the election, also invited a group of five students—who the lawsuit claims were not members of SFL—to attend the meeting in addition to the three executives from SFL and another student, Marigrace Noronha, who was slated to be elected as the fourth member of the SFL executive.
According to the suit, Adade allowed the five students to vote at the meeting, which took place by secret ballot. The results of the vote were four in favour and five opposed, resulting in Noronha’s failure to be elected.
The Medium has not independently verified any of the claims made by SFL.
According to Althea Blackburn-Evans, director of media relations at U of T, the university will not be intervening in the current legal action or UTMSU’s alleged choice not to renew SFL’s club status.
“Like all student groups, UTMSU is an autonomous organization; as such, U of T does not intervene in its decisions,” said Blackburn-Evans in an email to The Medium on Friday.
When asked if UTM administration have been involved or in contact with either of the parties, UTM dean of student affairs Mark Overton said, “UTM has not been asked to become involved in the matter.”
The three applicants from UTMSFL, Zettel, Cameron Grant, and Chad Hagel, are represented by Marty Moore, a Calgary-based lawyer from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. The centre has previously handled cases related to pro-life issues on postsecondary campuses.
This article is an update of midweek online-only coverage.