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Medical Student in Canada Remains Expelled for Refusing to Reject Personal Beliefs



What happens when you voice an opinion that others object to? Well, you can lose a job, friends, and or get booted out of college. 

Canadian medical student Rafael Zaki encountered the assault against free speech first-hand. He was sequentially suspended, then expelled from the University of Manitoba’s College of Medicine in 2019 after posting pro-life and pro-gun rights essays on Facebook. 

What followed was 18 anonymous complaints against him, citing students did not feel protected with him on campus.

The college conducted an investigation, and Zaki was technically expelled in August 2019 but was allowed to continue to attend until the process to adjudicate was exhausted. After the final university appeal, he was dismissed and no longer permitted to participate in medical school. 

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Zaki, who is a Coptic Christian, apologized in letters to both faculty and students. However, apologizing was not enough as he didn’t recant pro-life and pro-gun rights beliefs. He was then dismissed on August 30, 2019, under the Student Non-Academic Misconduct and Concerning Behaviour Procedure for non-academic misconduct in the form of unprofessional conduct. 

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The U.K-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) issued the following statement on the student’s removal, calling it a “…bigoted treatment of Rafael Zaki is an appalling and blatantly anti-Christian violation of free speech. His family fled Egypt to escape this sort of persecution.”

Zaki, whose parents escaped the harsh religious persecution in Egypt, told The Post Millennial, “I have had discussions about whether Canada values us. Friends from church have also talked to me about whether Canada is still a safe country for Coptic believers. It would be tragic if Coptic believers, having been pushed out of the Middle East for having non-approved beliefs, are also pushed out of Canada for having non-approved beliefs.”

In Egypt, Coptic Christians make up the bulk of the country’s estimated 10 million Christians persecuted. Acts of the brutality of mass beheadings, murder, kidnappings, and the destruction of churches are among the gross injustices. Christians have been expelled from their homes, subject to violence and endure intense community pressure.  

According to Open Doors USA, a community of Christians who support persecuted believers in more than 60 countries,  Egypt is ranked 16th in the world because of Islamic persecution.

“My parents immigrated seeking to practice our religion without discrimination and to secure a better future for their children,” said Zaki. 

The Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship sent the following to the University’s deans in Zaki’s defense. 

“It has long been accepted that evaluations of a person’s professional conduct are to be based on that person’s behavior, not on his or her beliefs, the letter dated November 5, 2020 read. “A good police officer must be willing to enforce the law. There is no corresponding requirement that he or he must be in favor of the law being enforced. In fact, in a democracy, we encourage and value those police officers who enforce the law as it is written but who also publicly lobby to try and change the laws with which they disagree.”

It’s not just Canadians dealing with bias. There’s been an acceleration of attacks on freedom of speech and religion in America. We’ve seen several professionals forced to battle for their rights in court. Local governments tried to force artists and business owners to use their talents to express messages people oppose. Lorie Smith is a web designer from Colorado and was censored for her beliefs. “Colorado forbids Lorie from even posting a message on her website explaining how her religious beliefs affect which websites she creates. That is censorship, plain and simple.”

Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips endured targeted attacks against his company in 2012, Masterpiece Cakeshop, when the Colorado Civil Rights Commission pursued legal action against him after respectfully declining a request to create a custom-designed cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. The Department of Education released a final rule on September 9, 2020, protecting freedom of religion and speech at America’s colleges and universities. This ruling requires public colleges and universities to offer the same rights, benefits and privileges to religious student organizations that they do to other student groups.

Zaki did not post anything illegal; his posts are no more controversial than many of his classmates. He does not own a gun and has never been deemed a safety risk. According to constitutional attorney Carol Crosson, he never saw the evidence against him or knew his accusers’ identities.

“When a university expels a student on the basis of his beliefs and opinions, its actions fly in the face of its purported purpose, to be a ‘bastion of free speech.’ This does not serve students, and it certainly does not serve a democratic society,” wrote Crosson in an email statement to CNJ. 

Zaki’s primary matter, his Application for Judicial Review of the Decision to expel him from the University of Manitoba, goes before the court on March 25, 2021. The appeal of the dismissal of his motion for an injunction is under appeal. 

Currently Zaki has a fundraising page to help in the legal battle against the college. He has raised over $9,000 in Canadian dollars.

-By Corine Gatti-Santillo



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