University of Ottawa Students Reject Israel Boycotts, Marking Ninth Consecutive BDS Defeat in Canada
Student leaders at the University of Ottawa rejected a motion to support boycotts of Israel on Sunday, marking the ninth consecutive defeat for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign on Canadian campuses over the past two years.
The measure, brought before the Board of Administration of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), sought to include an item backing BDS to the body’s policy handbook.
The Board rejected the motion, opting instead to require the SFUO “to do all in its power to peacefully resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Student were only notified of the upcoming vote on Friday — hours before the onset of Shabbat — prompting the Jewish human rights group B’nai Brith Canada to notify SFUO directors that an endorsement of BDS could invite legal action.
“The SFUO’s proposed BDS vote would have violated the notice requirements guaranteed by its own constitution, as well as the student union’s policy on discrimination, which prohibits the SFUO from discriminating on the basis of nationality or religion,” B’nai Brith Canada explained in a statement.
The vote comes weeks after an unsuccessful effort to withdraw the club status of Hillel Ottawa and its Israel Awareness Committee.
“We commend the SFUO for removing the reference to BDS from this resolution,” Dovi Chein, director of Hillel Ottawa, said on Sunday. “We are incredibly proud of the students who made a powerful case today for the SFUO to reject the destructive and divisive path of BDS.”
B’nai Brith pointed out that Sunday’s vote was ninth time in a row that BDS was defeated on a Canadian campus. “Over the past two years, BDS votes have failed at the University of Toronto (twice), the University of Waterloo, McGill University, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Winnipeg — and now the University of Ottawa as well,” the group noted.
Robert Walker, national director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, cautioned that “the pro-Israel community certainly should be pleased when BDS motions fail to pass on campus, but we can never forget the bigger picture.”
He pointed to a recent controversy at McGill University, where a student claimed he was removed from a leadership role on campus “because of my Jewish identity and my affiliations with Jewish organizations.”
“BDS votes,” Walker said, “are merely a sideshow of the far wider anti-Israel movement on campus.”