Raising a single placard
By Jason Ménard
Pacing outside the university's gates, one man withstood the cold afternoon air but finds himself in the middle of a controversy which has resulted in Western taking the former student to court.
Patrick Crawford, a 44-year-old former economics student, marked the first day of his one-man protest against the university by marching around the intersection of Western Rd. and Lambton Dr. carrying a sign reading "You own UWO. Don't I?" on one side and "Tell me why [university president] Paul [Davenport]" on the other, to protest his ban from the university campus and subsequent arrest for contravening the Trespass to Property Act.
"What I'm hoping for is that this won't happen to anyone else," Crawford said. His protests coincides with his current trial in provincial court for trespassing on private property. The trial resumes on Feb. 21.
Crawford contends that in October 1994, the university gave him a notice prohibiting his access to Western under normal circumstances and he said no formal reason or mediation has been afforded to him.
He said he believes the action was taken in retaliation to his filing a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 1994 over an alleged religious slur made against him during a student loan assessment. Crawford is of the Baha'i faith and the notice prevented him from attending a service on campus, which he contends is a violation of human rights.
Crawford was arrested in June after he had phoned the University Police Department to tell them he was in the business library, breaking the terms of the notice.
However, Western's VP-administration and general counsel Peter Mercer said Crawford's ban from campus is as a result of other alleged incidents which were communicated to his office by members of the Western community.
"Simply put, Mr. Crawford is someone whose outbursts of anger or other menacing behaviour has been of concern to members of the community," Mercer said. "It's pretty straight-forward. The administration has responded to legitimately-expressed concerns of students and staff.
"People who were here expressed concerns for their safety and when those concerns are repeatedly expressed it would be an abrogation of responsibility for the administration not to respond."
Mercer said his office received complaints describing Crawford's actions as yelling, shouting, intimidating and other highly-aggressive behaviour.
Crawford's lawyer, former London South Member of Provincial Parliament David Winninger, said he did not want to comment much on the case as it's before the courts but he added there had been no reports on record of erratic behaviour by Crawford.
"We're arguing that he has, like any member of campus, the right to use the campus," Winninger said. "We're also going to bring up the issue of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically the freedom of religion and of a fair and impartial hearing.
"The issue here is that universities are publicly-funded to a high degree and is there a greater onus on a property owner who is funded, in the majority, publicly to be open to the public."
Western is officially private property but Crawford said he is planning to challenge that designation legally because of the public funding.
Steve Jarrett, Western's lawyer declined comment because the case is in court.
(see news - photo #1)