Ryerson student Talia Emanuel has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) against Ryerson University, Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR), and two individuals for discrimination in services on the basis of her pro-life belief or creed.
In her complaint, Emanuel claims that since 2016, she has been denied equal access to students’ union services, including Equity Service Centres, organizations created in order to combat discrimination. Emanuel is female, of a racial minority, and lives with a disability. In her complaint, she claims that she has been denied equal access to services for female, racialized students, and for students with disabilities. Emanuel, a survivor of rape, claims that she has also been denied equal access to students’ union services for victims of sexual violence.
Emanuel states, “I filed this Human Rights complaint because I don’t want any other students to be discriminated against because of their beliefs, treated unfairly by those in authority, or denied equal access to services—especially services as essential as support for survivors of sexual assault.”
The RSU and CESAR offer services to marginalized students through jointly operated Equity Service Centres. Emanuel claims that she has been denied equal access to these services because she shares her pro-life beliefs alongside others on public sidewalks at Ryerson University.
In her complaint, Emanuel stated, “It distressed me to find out that I could not access the five Equity Centres….I am not able to get the assistance I need, on the same basis as other students. This demoralizes me. I believe I should be treated with dignity, despite if others agree or disagree with my creed.” Emanuel claims she attempted to attend an Equity Service Centre event, and was asked to leave upon entering the room. She met with Equity Service Centre staff, whom she claims informed her, “even if there’s not going to be a discussion around that topic [abortion], that it’s still an unspoken conversation that’s really limiting people’s ability to express themselves.”
Before going to the Tribunal, Emanuel claims that she sought justice from Ryerson University, which she says failed to appropriately address discrimination and violence against pro-life students. Emanuel says that students who hold a pro-life belief are not treated evenly with those who hold a pro-choice view, in her complaint sharing that she experienced discrimination when she has hosted events on campus, and that she came up empty when she appealed to the University for equal treatment.
Pro-life students who exercise their right to freedom of expression at Ryerson have faced theft, property destruction, harassment, and assaults, often by students’ union employees. Violence against pro-life students at Ryerson University continues to escalate. Gabby Skwarko, at the time an employee of Ryerson University, is currently facing charges of assault and assault with a weapon for attacking two individuals during a pro-life demonstration near campus. Yet another Ryerson student is currently facing criminal charges for mischief and assault against a pro-life student at Ryerson as well.
The HRTO has accepted Emanuel’s complaint and has scheduled a hearing for May 15, 2019.
Emanuel states, “University campuses should be places where free speech is protected. I have not experienced that. I hope that my human rights complaint can help to change that so other students will be treated equally, no matter what they believe.”