Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Abortion 3: CUSA vs. Liberal Democracy

Who else has been following the debate over at Carleton University on whether or not to ban, yes - ban, the student's pro-life group from the Student's Association. The ban will restrict the groups abilities to organize functions on the campus, prohibit the group from using any of the universities resources, and of course stop any funding it would have usually received.

In the course of the debate, the president of the Student Association said that while the group could promote the pro-life cause, it could not however publicly work toward the criminalization of abortion on any level. Since Canada has no abortion laws, and that means no legal protection for the small ones until they fully exit the mother's body, I find it a tad excessive to demand that one small student pro-life group be unable to even discuss the possibility of criminalizing some abortions. Excessive to the point of dangerous.

That the Carleton University Student's Association would go so far as to refuse to allow the group to openly discuss legal restrictions on abortion illustrates a serious crisis of the university, and of our democracy. Carleton University is on Canadian soil, and Canada is a liberal democracy. Liberal democracies are known for many things, first among them freedom of speech and critical analysis. Without these two things, democracy cannot be excercized, since expression and discussion are essentially what makes democracy representation and fair, even at its most base. Thus within Canada, citizens are able publicly disagree with the courts and the government, citizens can appeal judicial decisions, and citizens can repeal legislation. The idea is that even democracies can make mistakes, and it is sometimes necessary to retrace our steps to make sure we have made the correct decision. We do this all the time in economics: trade policies are revised and discarded, budgets are modified, and institutions are expanded or streamline to increase efficiency or competency. Yet what the CUSA is basically saying is that when it comes to abortion, students cannot disagree with the complete lack of laws at all. (And, to top it all of with irony, it is a university association telling its students that certain discussions cannot be held, at a university) So restricting the exercise of critical analysis undercuts the ability of these students to fully exercise their rights as guaranteed in the Charter of Rights. If the CUSA decides to follow its expressed course of action, it does so at the expense of our liberal democracy, and it may even do so illegally.

I'm surprised no one has made this argument to the CUSA yet. I'm sure there are some very smart people following this case who could make a much more compelling argument than I. I would personally love to discuss how to advance this argument, especially since the national media is actually giving the issue some attention.

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