FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Pro-Life Ryerson Student Files Discrimination Complaint with Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario

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.”

Media Contact

Talia Emanuel
taliaemanuel+media@gmail.com

Talia Emanuel

The Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective: A History of Thefts, Assaults, and Harassment

Since November 2016, we’ve faced threats, assaults, thefts and other forms of pro-choice violence from the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective. We’ve followed up with Toronto Police and Ryerson University, and other legal action is ongoing.

After the attack by Gabby Skwarko on Monday, October 1, we are going public with the evidence we have of the pattern of aggression from this group.

Our team members have never been the subject of a police investigation for our activism. The RRJC has falsely alleged that we have assaulted them. This is categorically untrue, and we challenge the RRJC to produce any evidence whatsoever to substantiate the false allegations. Here’s our evidence of their consistent pattern of pro-choice violence.

The Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective has been trying to figure out how to censor us and prevent us from sharing the pro-life message for two years. They have no clue how to stop us. They have tried unsuccessfully to cover up the corpses and stifle the abortion debate on campus. Despite this opposition, we continue to change hearts and minds at Ryerson.

However, our team is consistently the target of pro-choice violence from the RRJC for our peaceful and civil outreach. The RRJC resorts to violence out of desperation because they are not content with civil discourse and they have been unsuccessful in trying to censor us or prevent us from sharing our message. This needs to stop. No one should be assaulted for having a civil conversation on a university campus. We are shining a light on the RRJC’s deplorable conduct to put an end to it.

Featuring…

  • Paige Galette, then Campaigns Coordinator for CESAR (Continuing Education Students Association of Ryerson) and Co-Founder of the RRJC (Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective) — a variety of incidents including theft, threats, disruption of University-sanctioned event. Cautioned by police, no charges laid. Student union employee, not subject to Ryerson University sanctions.
  • Cassandra Myers, then RSU (Ryerson Students Union) staff member as coordinator in an Equity Centre, then Ryerson Board of Governors 2016-2017 — assault by water throwing, theft and destruction of property. Cautioned by police, no charges laid. Ryerson University refused to investigate a complaint under the Student Code of Conduct after the police investigation.
  • Gabriela “Gabby” Skwarko, 2017-2018 Faculty of Arts Director for the RSU (Ryerson Students’ Union). Investigations underway from Toronto Police and Ryerson’s Student Conduct Office from Oct 1, 2018 attack.
  • Julia Pivetta and Alex Douglas — stole a sign with an image of a healthy embryo and attempted to put it into the trash. Cautioned by police, no charges laid. The Ryerson Student Conduct Office applied penalties, but refused to say what penalties were applied.
  • Liezl Yance, President (Interim) CESAR (Continuing Education Students; Association of Ryerson), seen blocking camera while incidents were in progress.
  • Hannah Levitt-Day, grabbing camera and using threatening language (“I want to rip you apart ’cause I hate you guys so much”, “I’m really gonna grab a can of spray paint and just spray you guys” minutes before Gabby Skwarko’s attack)

Some people question why we film our demonstrations. The video should make the answer to that question obvious — for our own safety and protection, we film during our demonstrations so that when we face pro-choice violence, we have evidence to report to the authorities.

Pro-Choice Violence at Ryerson: Gabriela (Gabby) Skwarko

On Monday, October 1, two Toronto Against Abortion team members were attacked while engaging in civil discussion about abortion with pro-choice counterprotesters at Ryerson.

Gabby Skwarko, a member of the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective and last year’s Faculty of Arts Director at the Ryerson Students Union, approached Blaise Alleyne and Katie Somers from behind and launched into an attack on them and their property. Another member of the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective attempted to block one of the cameras from filming the attack.

Police and EMS were called. Katie Somers suffered injury, including bruising to her leg. A police investigation is open, but charges have not yet been laid.

Free speech is under serious threat in Ontario, and especially at Ryerson, where people are being assaulted for peacefully and civilly sharing their beliefs. While we are always peaceful and civil, we face violence and illegal activity often at Ryerson. This is one of many incidents our Ryerson Team has had to endure over the past two years from the student unions and the Reproductive Justice Collective.

We continue to reach more and more people in the Ryerson community with the pro-life message every week, despite attempts by the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective to censor and stop us through assaults and thefts. Hearts and minds are being changed on abortion at Ryerson every week, and our team is growing. We will not be intimidated by violence. Pro-choice violence is a desperate attempt to slow our momentum, and the pro-choice violence we face is nothing compared to the pro-choice violence that pre-born children face in abortion.

Blaise Alleyne and Katie Somers are both available for comment by email or phone:
blaise@torontoagainstabortion.org
katie@torontoagainstabortion.org
647-478-6309

The Streisand Effect and the Abortion Debate

Have you ever heard of the Streisand Effect? The Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective (RRJC) certainly hasn’t. Their attempt to censor the photos we bring to campus of abortion victims only attracts more attention to the injustice of abortion and the inadequacy of the pro-choice position.

The Streisand Effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of attracting even more attention to the information. In 2003, photographer Kenneth Adelman was taking photos of the California coastline, hoping to document coastal erosion. Barabara Streisand got upset that an aerial photograph of her Malibu mansion was published in the collection, so she sued. Before the lawsuit, only six people had downloaded the photo — two of whom were her attorneys. In the month after the lawsuit, the photo was downloaded almost half a million times. Oops.

We see the Streisand Effect all the time in our activism at Ryerson. From Day One, the vocal counterprotests from what has become the RRJC have helped to generate campus media attention and make abortion impossible to ignore at Ryerson. I used to keep track of all media coverage of our activism. After we began activism at Ryerson, it quickly became impossible to keep up. Abortion has gone from a settled issue at Ryerson to one of the most hotly debated topics on campus. This is because we have been running weekly anti-abortion activism, but also thanks to the failed attempts of the RRJC to shut us down and cover up the injustice.

(We’ve seen this at U of T as well, with UTSU’s failed attempt to shut the pro-life message out of the street festival, or with counterprotests at George Brown College.)

The RRJC‘s one move is to try to cover the photos of abortion victims, even ultrasound photos of healthy children. How do you think this looks to passers-by? We hear from Ryerson students all the time, regardless of their views on abortion, who are bothered by the attempts to censor our message and the inability of the RRJC to defend their own position. How could they? The photos are unanswerable. Who will defend doing this to another human being?

Just last week, I heard fellow TAA activist, Brendan, explain to a group of Ryerson students that we were displaying the photos in order to show that decapitating, dismembering and disembowelling a human being is a human rights violation. An RRJC representative nearby, employed by the Ryerson Students’ Union, defended their attempts to cover up our photos. One of the students asked the RRJC representative why they were trying to censor us and block our message instead of responding to us with a message of their own. Another student said that the RRJC does have an implicit message, that people should control their own bodies. I jumped in and agreed, but pointed out that it’s very difficult for the RRJC to make their stance explicit when their stance is that it’s okay to decapitate, dismember and disembowel another human being’s body.

All they can do is cover up the evidence of the bodies being torn apart by abortion. Even ultrasound photos become intolerable.

My Body My Choice vs body of abortion victim

The phrase “my body, my choice” rings hollow next to a photo of another human body brutalized by abortion. Even worse, their sign that says “policing somebody else’s body is violence” looks nothing short of ridiculous next to photographic evidence of the violence that abortion does to the bodies of pre-born children 300 times per day in Canada. From our conversations week by week, it’s clear that many Ryerson students recognize this.

When confronted with the victims of an injustice, it’s been said that we have a choice to be perpetrators, bystanders, or rescuers. Apparently, there’s another choice: we can try to cover it up. That’s not a good look.

Would we rather the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective not try to censor our message? Of course. But their attempt to cover up photos of abortion victims massively backfires against our strategy. Their censorship presents a tactical speed bump. We can leverage their attempted cover up into a win-win situation: if they don’t block us, we reach tons of Ryerson students with the pro-life message; if they do block us, they attract way more attention to the abortion debate than we could ever do alone. Call it the Ryesand Effect? We just keep following up, week by week, reaching more students, making abortion impossible to ignore and changing hearts and minds, one conversation and one photo at a time.

Respecting the Bodily Autonomy of Every Human Being

The Canadian Federation of Students has a pamphlet that members of the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective have started handing out at Ryerson.

CONSENT IS MANDATORY

CONSENT IS RESPECTING BODILY AUTONOMY

RESPECTING BODILY AUTONOMY IS SUPPORTING REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE

The inside says that reproductive justice includes the ability to “terminate a pregnancy.”

Consent is mandatory? Consent is respecting bodily autonomy? No objection here.

Respecting bodily autonomy is supporting reproductive justice? Reproductive justice includes the ability to terminate a pregnancy? What about the bodily autonomy of the child?

This is why we show photo evidence of the violence that abortion does to the bodies of pre-born children. Abortion is an act of violence that destroys the body of an innocent human being.

And this is why the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective attempts to cover up the injustice. Once you see the second body that has been destroyed by an abortion, the view that respecting bodily autonomy includes the ability to terminate a pregnancy is obviously false.

Yes, we have a right to control our own bodies. Does that include a right to assault somebody else? Our right to control our own body ends at someone else’s body. A right to bodily autonomy does not include a right to assault somebody else.

We see related slogans at Ryerson and George Brown College, like “Mind your own *^$%ing body” and “Policing someone else’s body is violence,” which also ring hollow next to the photos they’re trying to cover up of children’s bodies destroyed by abortion. Isn’t decapitating, dismembering and disembowelling someone else’s body violence?

No wonder they don’t want anyone to see the photos.