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March 27, 2018 4:57 pm

After Third BDS Defeat in Five Months, University of Ottawa President Speaks Out Against Israel Boycotts

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avatar by Shiri Moshe

Sign at the University of Ottawa campus. Photo: Wikimedia / Skimel.

The president and vice-chancellor of the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada spoke out against the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign on Monday, after it was defeated by the student government for the third time in five months.

The Board of Administration — the highest body in uOttawa’s Student Federation (SFUO) — voted down a pro-BDS motion at a meeting on Sunday night, less than two weeks after a similar resolution failed to pass SFUO’s General Assembly. The board had already rejected a nearly identical BDS motion in November.

“The University of Ottawa will have no part of the BDS movement nor any movement that boycotts academic institutions,” wrote President Jacques Frémont in a statement.

The BDS campaign — which seeks to isolate Israel internationally until its government accedes to a number of Palestinian demands — “is divisive and a detriment to an open and welcoming campus environment,” he continued.

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Frémont argued that boycotts stifle the university’s academic mission by limiting the free exchange of ideas, while creating “an environment where some members of our community may feel insecure and ostracized.”

His stance — which included a pledge to continue pursuing “mutually beneficial relationships with leading institutions around the world” — was applauded by Hillel Ottawa, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Boycotting Israel denigrates the very identity of Jewish students,” said Dovi Chein, director of Hillel Ottawa. “On this basis alone, no responsible student government should ever endorse BDS and we are hopeful this third rejection settles the matter at uOttawa once and for all.”

Chein told The Algemeiner earlier this month that SFUO “acts based on bias and ideology as opposed to pragmatism,” posing a challenge for his community.

Days later, a Jewish student filed a complaint with uOttawa’s Human Rights Office, accusing the SFUO and its leadership of engaging in antisemitic and anti-Israel discrimination.

The Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada, which aided the student, said the complaint concerned the SFUO’s efforts last year to remove the club status of both Hillel Ottawa and its sister organization, the Israel Awareness Committee. It also argued that BDS measures violated the student government’s anti-discrimination policies.

The BDS motion’s failure on Sunday marked the 11th consecutive defeat for the campaign at Canadian universities, according to B’nai Brith. “Over the past two years, BDS votes have failed at the University of Toronto (twice), the University of WaterlooMcGill University, the University of British ColumbiaSimon Fraser University, the University of Winnipeg [twice] — and now three times at the University of Ottawa,” it wrote.

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