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December 9, 2021 1:51 pm

Toronto School Board Trustee Who Denounced Antisemitic Materials ‘Vindicated’ After Vote to Reject Censure


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Skyline of Toronto, Canada, June, 2020. Photo: Aaron Davis / Wikimedia Common

In a vote hailed as a “vindication” by Canadian Jewish groups, a Toronto school board rejected on Wednesday night an effort to censure a Jewish member who was accused of Islamophobia after she denounced antisemitism.

The Toronto District School Board had launched an investigation of trustee Alexandra Lulka after she reviewed unapproved teacher’s manuals about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict distributed by equity advisor Javier Davila, and tweeted that their content was “virulently anti-Israel and even antisemitic” and justifying of “suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism.”

The TDSB Human Rights Office (HRO) initially found that the materials “could reasonably be considered to contain antisemitic material, references, or allusions,” and that resources they linked to could “support the use of violence and terrorism against Israeli Jews.” In particular, it cited links to the website of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and interviews with known terrorists.

But on May 21, Davila complained, prompting TDSB to investigate Lulka for harassment, improper influencing of an investigation, and defamation of a TDSB employee. Despite clearing Lulka of those charges, the TDSB Integrity Commission nonetheless accused her of anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian bigotry, recommending that she be censured by the TDSB Board of Trustees.

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That recommendation was rejected by the board’s trustees Wednesday, by a 10-7 margin.

B’nai Brith Canada called the result the “only justifiable decision” in what was “nothing but a contrived witch-hunt.”

“There was never any basis for censuring Trustee Lulka,” said CEO Michael Mostyn. “However, this saga is far from over. The TDSB needs to come clean about its initial handling of this issue in May, as well as its deeply failed investigation. B’nai Birth will not rest until the entire truth is revealed and systemic antisemitism is defeated at the TDSB.”

In a statement, B’nai Brith recalled events in 2017, when it “chided the TDSB for adopting an overly broad definition of Islamophobia that could muzzle criticism of Palestinian terrorism against Israelis”— noting further that Davila, the subject of Lulka’s criticism, is neither Muslim nor Palestinian.

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSCW), which had written earlier to TDSB “expressing alarm” about the possible censure of Lulka, also cheered the decision.

“We commend each and every TDSB trustee who voted in support of Trustee Alexandra Lulka and her right to speak out against antisemitism,” said Michael Levitt, FSWC CEO and President. “The trustees understood that censure would set a chilling precedent and impact trustees’ abilities to stand up to hate and discrimination.”

Said the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) on Twitter, “Trustee Lulka has been vindicated. The Integrity Commissioner’s report and the recommendations that flowed from it relied solely on the conclusions of an investigator whose impartiality is in question.”

“Now is the time for action, and we remain committed to supporting the Toronto District School Board in this important work which must move forward with urgency,” the group said.

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