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HomeBusinessJudge strikes province from Free Speech Club’s lawsuit over UBC cancellation of Antifa critic’s lecture

Judge strikes province from Free Speech Club’s lawsuit over UBC cancellation of Antifa critic’s lecture

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Bob Mackin

As the anti-Israel protest camp at the University of B.C. continues for a second month, a B.C. Supreme Court judge has weighed-in on a lawsuit against the university’s 2019 cancellation of a conservative author’s lecture. 

Cover of Portland writer Andy Ngo’s book on Antifa.

The Free Speech Club promoted a January 2020 appearance at the Robson Square campus by Portland writer Andy Ngo, a critic of Antifa protests that often feature intimidation and violence. But, in November 2019, UBC’s vice-president of students cancelled the Ngo event due to safety and security concerns and returned the club’s deposit. The Free Speech Club and members Noah Alter, Cooper Asp and Jarryd Jaeger sued UBC for breach of contract and a declaration that the university and provincial government both violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In a June 4 written decision, Justice Christopher Greenwood ruled the province would be struck from the claim. Greenwood wrote that neither the province nor any of its employees had any direct involvement in the cancellation and “the plaintiffs cannot succeed against the province based on the facts or the law.”

Greenwood also said the plaintiffs “face strong headwinds” in convincing the court that the Charter applies to UBC, due to previous decisions that say universities are not equivalent to government. 

The judge pointed to two 1990 Supreme Court of Canada decisions about mandatory retirement that said the University of Guelph and University of B.C. were not covered by the Charter. He also cited a 2016 B.C. Court of Appeal decision against the Youth Protecting Youth anti-abortion group at the University of Victoria.  

“Both the Chambers judge and the Court of Appeal found in [the UVic case] that regulating or prohibiting space controlled by the university from being used for expressive purposes was not sufficient to constitute the performance of a government function,” Greenwood wrote. 

The appeal decision said “[universities] manage their own affairs and allocate government funds, tuition revenues and endowment funds to meet their needs as they see fit. The complex nature of the relationship between the university and the provincial government did not alter the traditional nature of a university as a community of scholars and students enjoying substantial internal autonomy.”

In 2013, Youth Protecting Youth’s space-booking privileges were revoked for a year after it disobeyed the university’s orders against holding an outdoor event where photographs of fetuses were displayed. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and group leader Cameron Cote accused the university of illegally censoring peaceful pro-life opinion on campus.

Ngo, who is not a party to the Free Speech Club lawsuit, authored “Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy” in 2021. The senior editor with the conservative Post Millennial news outlet sued the far-left Rose City Antifa in 2023 for injuries suffered at a 2019 protest. Two people were found not liable. When three other defendants did not appear, a judge awarded Ngo $300,000 in damages by default. 

Protesters against Israel and its war on the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza arrived April 29 and erected barricades and tents on MacInnes Field at UBC’s main Point Grey campus. They demand UBC divest from Israel-related stocks, cut ties with Israeli universities and abolish police from campus. UBC President Benoit-Antoine Bacon has not agreed to the demands of protesters, nor has he ordered them to be removed. 

Protesters have also staged sit-ins at the university president’s office building and the bookstore. Police thwarted their attempt to occupy a building where NDP re-election campaign workers were meeting June 1.

Charlotte Kates of Samidoun on May 29 (CASI)

On May 29, campers and supporters blocked a major intersection near UBC hospital. Charges are being considered against Susan Bibbings, who defied orders to leave the intersection. The West Vancouver mother pleaded guilty in 2022 for blocking highways in environmental protests professionally organized by associates of the California-based Climate Emergency Fund.

The UBC protest camp started with help from 44-year-old Charlotte Kates, international director of the pro-Hamas Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. 

Prosecutors are considering whether to charge Kates for inciting or promoting hatred after Vancouver Police arrested her on April 29. 

On the Vancouver Art Gallery steps April 26, Kates called Iran-backed Hamas “heroic and brave” for the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and she urged followers to support those inside and outside Gaza who are fighting to end the state of Israel. Kates also said Hamas and its allies do not belong on Canada’s terrorist list.

Police released Kates on an undertaking to not attend protests, demonstrations or assemblies until a tentative Oct. 8 court date. Samidoun has organized or promoted most, if not all, Lower Mainland anti-Israel protests since Oct. 7.

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