Appeal Court rules on anti-abortion protest at the University of Alberta

EDMONTON — A campus group that staged an anti-abortion protest at the University of Alberta that led to a counter-demonstration has lost an appeal over how the school handled the event, but won a second appeal about security costs.

UAlberta Pro-Life sought a judicial review of the university’s decision not to investigate the group’s complaint that counter-demonstrators should have been disciplined in 2015 for blocking its displays, which included pictures of dismembered fetuses.

The group also wanted a review of the university’s decision that the group would have to pay $17,500 to cover security costs for a similar protest it wanted to hold in 2016.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represented UAlberta Pro-Life, wanted the court to rule that charging a security fee infringed on freedom of expression.

Both applications had been previously dismissed by Court of Queen’s Bench.

In a 2-1 decision, Alberta’s Court of Appeal agreed that the challenge over the complaint decision should be dismissed, but the security costs appeal should be allowed.

“However, we also agree with my colleague that because the appellant did not challenge the constitutionality of the procedure under which the university sought to recover the security costs for the 2016 event, no other remedy is useful or appropriate beyond setting the security costs aside,” wrote two of the judges.

They didn’t get into whether the university could justify such a decision for future events.

Hallie Brodie, a spokeswoman for the university, said in a statement: “The University of Alberta will be reviewing the decision in detail and therefore reserves further comment at this time.”

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said it is pleased with the decision rejecting the imposition of a security fee.

“Demanded by the university in 2016, this security fee had prevented the small student club from hosting educational displays on campus,” said a news release.

The group said it continues to analyze the ruling.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2020

The Canadian Press