Protestors Halt Campus Pro-Life Presentation
By Nicole Myshak
Despite efforts to sabotage a Feb. 5 event, disruptive pro-abortion protestors did not succeed in dissuading pro-life attendees or
in silencing their message.
“I’d definitely come back,” declares Beth Pettigrew. “We need to hear things like this.”
A first year student at St. Mary’s UniversityinHalifax, Pettigrew was one of more than 60 participants at “Echoes of the Holocaust: A Reflection on the Abortion Issue.”
Jose (Jojo) Ruba, a founding member of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, was set to present a talk in the Burke Building
on campus, which was sponsored by the St. Mary’s Pro-life Students and Campaign Life Coalition Nova Scotia. However for the better part of an hour Ruba’s attempts to begin his presentation or engage abortion proponents in dialogue were drowned out by yells and chanting.
About a dozen vocal protestors repeatedly accused Ruba, a visible minority, of “hate speech,” sexism and racism.The request of a security official for respect and cooperation was ineffectual.
After some time Ruba resorted to communicating via the overhead projection system where his typed message could be seen. “I can’t be judged to be hateful if I haven’t even spoken,” he writes.
Eventually Ruba asked those interested in hearing his presentation to move lower in the theatre hall. With approximately 30
participants filling the first few rows of seating, Ruba continued although this new approach seemed futile for the presentation was barely audible above the raucous protestors.
One abortion advocate further disabled Ruba’s ability to convey his message by covering the projection window so that his power point display and any video clips or photographs could not be seen on the large screen. Even with several members of the Halifax Regional Police on site and issuing warnings, the disgruntled group continued to behave in a similar manner.
Once the police provided a “last warning” to several protestors — informing them that they would be arrested upon their next outburst — the event came to an abrupt end.
After a few moments of confusion participants were advised to relocate to Canadian Martyrs church if they wished to hear the final portion of the presentation.
Bridget Brownlow, the Conflict Resolution Advisor for St. Mary’s, appeared to play a deciding role in the premature conclusion of the event. When reached for comment Brownlow cited her “neutral” position at the university and declined an interview. However she suggested contacting Father Dan Kelly, SJ.
Reachable by phone Father Kelly, the university chaplain who supported the students in hosting the event, explained that members of the St. Mary’s staff were called to an emergency meeting about the presentation on the afternoon of Feb. 5.
“They supported it going ahead,” he recounts. “Encouraged and edified” when he left this meeting, Father Kelly says the university supported the students’right to hold the event.
Responding to why Ruba’s presentation was not allowed to finish on campus, Father Kelly explains that there was agreement
amongst those at the meeting that if matters got “out of control,” the event would be called off.
Father Kelly perceives that because this criterion remained undefined , a s u b j e c t i v e determination was able to shut down the presentation for it was “open to interpretation.”
He laments that this outcome seems to have supported the protestors and their tactics as the organizers of the event “weren’t the
problem.” They think their rights superceded others’ rights, he adds in relation to the pro-choicers.
Pettigrew agrees. The commerce student describes how the shouting of these individuals pertained to rights and freedoms but
that such privileges applied only to them. “[They] just wanted freedom of their speech,” she states.
This being her first time at an event concerning the rights of the unborn, Pettigrew was surprised about how heated the atmosphere was and expressed disbelief at the tactics of pro-abortion advocates.
“I was shocked,” says the twenty year old.
Melissa Church shares these sentiments. The third year Dalhousie student thought that the protestors were “disrespectful”
and displayed “arrogance.” “They were very rude,” she adds. “It was appalling.”
However, the kinesiology student says she “felt warmed” by the handful of pro-abortion students who relocated to the church for the remainder of the presentation. She acknowledges how this took “a lot of courage” on their part.
Nearly three hours after the presentation was supposed to begin, Ruba concluded his talk by saying that “persecution like this is not a bad thing.”
Referencing other individuals who fought against injustice Ruba shared a final quotation from Martin Luther King Junior which
he thought was “apropos for this evening.”
“We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension,we merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive,” says the civil rights advocate.
“We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with.”
As the Atlantic Catholic went to print other media sources reported that a pro-abortion group was considering launching a human rights complaint against the St. Mary’s University chaplain. Future issues of the Atlantic Catholic will cover developments in this story.