Student Trespass Charges Withdrawn in Carleton University Free Expression Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Student Trespass Charges Withdrawn in Carleton University Free Expression Case
OTTAWA, ON. November 1, 2011- Trespassing charges that were filed against members of Carleton Lifeline, the pro-life student club at Carleton University, were withdrawn by the Crown yesterday.

On October 4, 2010, members of Carleton Lifeline, a pro-life club at Carleton University, were arrested for attempting to peacefully display the Genocide Awareness Project, an exhibit which compares abortion to other forms of genocide. The University deemed the Genocide Awareness Project to be “offensive” and directed the Ottawa Police Service to arrest and charge four Carleton University tuition-paying students and a Queen’s University student with trespassing. The charges were scheduled to proceed to trial today and tomorrow (November 2nd, 2011).

The Crown stated that the basis for withdrawing the trespass charges is that the issues dealing with the relationship between a university and its students was already being dealt with in Lobo et al. v. Carleton University et al., the civil action brought by two Carleton Lifeline members, Ruth (Lobo) Shaw and John McLeod, against Carleton University and members of its administration.

In July, the Ontario Superior Court heard a motion brought by Carleton University which sought to strike Carleton Lifeline’s Statement of Claim, the document initiating the lawsuit. Had the university been successful, this would have ended the suit. In a split decision, Justice Toscano Roccamo ordered that the action could continue but ordered Carleton Lifeline to make several amendments to its Statement of Claim.

In a subsequent decision regarding costs of the motion to strike, Justice Toscano Roccamo ordered the students to pay Carleton University’s legal costs in the amount of $18,400.87 plus applicable taxes. Carleton University had asked that the students pay $21, 467.68 in legal fees.

“We are pleased that the Crown has decided to withdraw these unjust charges” said Ruth (Lobo) Shaw, former president of Carleton Lifeline. “We have always maintained that we had the right to exhibit the Genocide Awareness Project on campus and that our arrest was unlawful. The withdrawal of these unjust charges is confirmation of that fact.”

Despite the withdrawal of the charges, the civil action against Carleton University is ongoing. “Although we no longer need to defend ourselves against the trespassing charges, a lot of work still needs to be done to move our lawsuit against Carleton University along and to clarify the legal rights of students to campus free speech and expression,” said John McLeod, current president of Carleton Lifeline.

To support Carleton Lifeline’s Defense Fund, please visit http://www.carletonlifeline.wordpress.com.

For further information, please visit http://www.carletonlifeline.wordpress.com or contact Carleton Lifeline’s Legal Counsel, Albertos Polizogopoulos at (613) 241-2701.

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