A legal dispute between the University of Victoria Students’ Society and an undergraduate anti-abortion group has been settled out of court.
In May, Youth Protecting Youth filed a lawsuit in the B.C. Supreme Court against the student union, alleging club members had faced discrimination and censorship.
Youth Protecting Youth had been seeking the reinstatement of funding and club status that student union leaders had allegedly removed for disciplinary reasons.
But the group announced today (July 19) an agreement had been reached with the student union.
The University of Victoria Students’ Society has granted summer semester funding, recognized the group’s club status, repaid previously denied funds, and rescinded controversial policy changes.
“This is a great victory for YPY,” club president Anastasia Pearse says in a statement on the club’s Web site.
“We interpret the UVSS’ concessions as an admission of wrongdoing, and we’re happy with the new direction it’s taking.”
Under the agreement, the lawsuit is being held in abeyance, which means the anti-abortion club could quickly reinitiate legal action, if desired.
Student union spokesperson James Coccola defended the UVSS actions.
“The board of directors weighed all the sides and did their best to accommodate all of the concerns,” Coccola said, referring to the initial complaints from Youth Protecting Youth.
“The board of directors feels that it has the right to decide where its members’ money goes,” he added. “They have the right to take political positions.”
But Coccola expressed relief a settlement has been reached.
“The biggest issue for us was cost and we’re happy we didn’t have to go into court,” he told the Straight today by phone.
“Stepping into court probably would have cost us anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000, which is more than we’d really be able to pay at this point.”
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has also been supportive of Youth Protecting Youth in the dispute.
“This is an acceptable settlement,” the association’s John Dixon says in a statement. “But why did it take a lawsuit to extract a modicum of respect for free speech rights on the campus of a public university?”