Men’s Issues Awareness Society takes Ryerson Students’ Union to court

A pair of students at Ryerson University are taking their student government to court, after it rejected the Men’s Issues Awareness Society’s (MIAS) request to form as a campus club.

Kevin Arriola and Alexandra Godlewski have been fighting the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) in court since Jan. 24 on behalf of the MIAS.

The MIAS was first refused club status at Ryerson in 2015 after the student union expressed concerns that the group was linked to off-campus men’s rights group Canadian Association for Equality, and the anti-feminist group, Voice for Men, according to Jay Cameron, litigation manager for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCFF). The JCFF is a non-profit group backing the MIAS. 

However, Ryerson’s MIAS isn’t the first campus men’s group to find itself at the centre of controversy. In 2015, a similar men’s rights group at the University of Toronto was accused of being the source of death threats made against feminists on campus, according to Metro News.

According to Arriola, the goal of the MIAS is to raise awareness of the problems faced by men and boys, such as higher rates of suicide, difficulties in school, and homelessness.

He said internal appeals at Ryerson to form the club were rejected, forcing the group to take their case to court.

“We decided that if they’re going to unfairly block us based on their own prejudices, then we were going to issue them a court challenge and see if a judge would agree with us,” Arriola said, who is also the former president of the group.

According to the RSU’s website, having club status from the union is necessary to receive funding and access to free on-campus meeting spaces.

In a public post on Facebook, Andrea Bartlett, RSU president in 2015-16, alleged that female board members received threatening emails and phone calls during the MIAS’s application process, which the group did not adequately address.

“During their presentations, representatives from the group refused to acknowledge the reality of patriarchy and other systemic issues of privilege,” Bartlett wrote. “[This] runs contrary to the core equity values of the RSU as an organization.”

However, Arriola denies his group would promote an unsafe atmosphere at Ryerson.

“They were worried we would bring misogyny and violence against women on campus, which is just ridiculous,” he said. “I even changed our constitution to meet their recommendations, and they still denied us club status.”

The MIAS has been joined in their case by two anti-abortion groups from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Durham College, and the University of Toronto Mississauga who were also denied club status by their respective student unions, according to the Post Millennial

“The student unions have a monopoly over these kinds of activities,” Cameron said. “And yet, you have rather small-minded people who happen to have a little bit of authority who are showing bias and breaches of procedural fairness against people they disagree with.”

In the meantime, the RSU and the MAIS are awaiting the judge’s decision, which is expected to be delivered soon, according to Cameron.