Cameron Wilson et al. v. University of Calgary
Since 2006, University of Calgary pro-life students have set up a controversial display on campus numerous times, usually four days per year (two days in the spring and two days in the fall). In 2006 and 2007, the University of Calgary (U of C) posted its own signs near the display, stating that this expression was protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In March of 2008, the U of C began demanding – on threat of expulsion – that the students set up their display with the signs facing inwards, to hide the signs entirely from the view of people passing by. No other group or club on campus was subjected to this demand, and the U of C had not objected to gory, graphic and disturbing images used by other groups (e.g. photo of head having gone through a windshield, displayed by pro-seatbelt group; graphic photos of torture perpetrated by the Chinese communist government against adherents of the Falun Gong religion). The students therefore continued to set up their display with signs facing outwards, as they had already been doing for the previous two years.
In 2009, the U of C tried unsuccessfully to have the pro-life students found guilty of trespassing on their own campus. The Crown Prosecutors’ office withdrew the charges because the students were not violating any University rules, regulations, or policies.
In 2010, the U of C found seven students guilty of non-academic misconduct for having continued to set up their display with signs facing outwards. In 2011, the Board of Governors of the U of C rejected the students’ appeal and affirmed this verdict of guilty. The students challenged this decision in a court action seeking judicial review, commenced in 2011, and were represented by the JCCF.
In April of 2014, in Wilson v. University of Calgary, the Court set aside the Board of Governors decision as being unreasonable and lacking “justification, transparency and intelligibility.” The Court stated that the Board of Governors had failed to balance the students’ free expression rights with other interests, and did not take into account “the nature and purpose of a university as a forum for the expression of differing views”. The Board of Governors then reversed its position. The charges of non-academic misconduct were quashed, and removed from the students’ files.
- Letter from University of Calgary Board of Governors – June 17, 2014
- Press Release: University of Calgary reverses its decision in free expression case – June 17, 2014
- Decision of Madame Justice Karen Horner – April 1, 2014
- Press Release: Free speech victory at the University of Calgary – April 7, 2014
- Press Release: Students Take University To Court Over Free Speech – April 13, 2011
- Originating Application
- Submissions of the Applicants
- University’s Brief of Argument re 17 April 2013 court hearing Wilson v. University of Calgary
- Students’ Brief of Argument re 17 April 2013 court case Wilson v. University of Calgary
John Carpay, B.A., LL.B.
Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms
#253, 7620 Elbow Drive SW
Calgary, Alberta, T2V 1K2