WATERLOO, Canada – A pro-life display memorializing victims of abortion was recently vandalized and spat on by profanity-yelling students at a university in Canada, leading university officials to ban such displays in the future due to their “adversarial tone.”
Laurier LifeLink is a pro-life organization at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. After receiving permission from the university, members of the group placed 10,000 small pink and blue flags on a grassy outdoor area on campus last October to raise awareness of abortion victims, with each flag representing 10 abortions that take place in Canada each year.
“[The display is designed to] raise awareness and educate people because abortion’s such a hush-hush issue,” Stephanie Breukelman, president of Laurier LifeLink, said in an interview with The Cord, the campus newspaper. “People haven’t thought about abortion and they don’t know what all goes on in these situations and this is just to raise awareness about [what is] being done in Canada. Almost 300 little babies are dying each day in Canada.”
However, the flag display angered some university students and faculty. A few hours after the flags were set up, employees from the university’s Diversity and Equity Office posted a sign near the display that said, “Warning: Anti-Choice display ahead.”
“I was dumbfounded,” wrote Laurier LifeLink member Christine Schuknecht in a column for the National Post. “Why was a warning needed? We were peaceful and polite. And why had this ‘non-partisan’ office of my university referred to my group as ‘anti-choice’ when the term that neutrally describes us, and how we describe ourselves, is pro-life?”
As the day went on, several students harassed Laurier LifeLink members, yelling profanities and insults. Others spat on the flags and pulled them out of the ground. Campus police officers were called to maintain order but several students remained belligerent.
“I came down here and started pulling [the flags] out and spat on their banner,” said student Daniel Quintia, describing the flag display as “harmful” and “upsetting.” “The officers are here [telling me] you have to respect their rights and I’m like, but I don’t, I don’t have to respect their opinion.”
Student Dylan Miller likewise condemned the pro-life display.
“It’s shaming. It’s just invasive and it’s a shame tactic and I don’t think that it’s appropriate,” she said. “It’s aggressive and I think that there’s a larger issue to be discussed rather than just saying that abortions are wrong and we need to preserve life.”
“I think this is pretty clear, with the pink and blue flags, like what it is and what they’re representing,” Miller added. “I think it’s pretty pathetic. How is this allowed? Isn’t this 2016?”
Student union president Tyler Van Herzele later weighed in on the flag display controversy, saying in a letter to the university’s students that the flags “perpetuated significant feelings of judgement, exclusion, and fear” and should therefore be banned.
“The adversarial tone of the event evoked a confrontation which eliminated the possibility of respectful dialogue and created an unsafe environment for all students,” Herzele wrote. “We are working in conjunction with the Graduate Students’ Association, the Diversity and Equity Office, and the Office of Student Affairs to ensure this does not happen again.”
According to reports, Wilfrid Laurier University has since changed its campus organization rules in order to ban such displays from being displayed on campus in the future.
Despite the opposition, Schuknecht defended the actions of her pro-life organization.
“To be clear, LifeLink members did not have an ‘adversarial tone’; we made no one feel ‘unsafe’—records of the event show that is the case,” she stated. “In fact, when the university’s special constables arrived to monitor the event, they raised no objections to our conduct, issued no warnings, offered no interference, and, in fact, commended members of our group for their restraint in the face of harassment and intimidation.”