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March 25, 2022 2:27 pm
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McGill University Pledges ‘Action’ Over Student Government Israel Boycott

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Fine Arts Building of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. Photo: DXR/Wikimedia Commons

Officials at McGill University have promised to “take action” against a student government body if a controversial move to boycott Israeli institutions is upheld.

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) last week endorsed a policy accusing Israel of imposing “settler-colonial apartheid” against Palestinians and backed a boycott of “all corporations and institutions complicit” in the supposed practice. It was advanced despite the objections of the body’s own judicial board, which had repeatedly ruled that joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel would violate both the SSMU constitution and university’s policy on equity and inclusion.

Responding to concerns from Canadian Jewish groups — who called the referendum “illegitimate” and “extreme” — McGill University Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier pledged to step in if the SSMU did not reverse the decision.

The measure is “inconsistent with the SSMU constitution as well as previous decisions by its internal governance bodies,” Fortier confirmed in letters to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and B’nai Brith Canada.

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“We are also concerned about alleged irregularities in the referendum process,” she continued. “These views have been communicated to the SSMU leadership and we advised them to take prompt and appropriate remedial action consistent with SSMU’s obligations under its Memorandum of Agreement with the University, failing which the University will take action.”

“The current initiative by SSMU will lead to polarization that fosters a culture of ostracization and disrespect on the basis of students’ identity, religious or political beliefs,” she added. “The McGill administration will also take all necessary measures to ensure that our students continue to feel safe and free of harassment, including holding SSMU accountable to the principles and values of its own constitution.”

Recently, in a precedent-setting decision, the University of Toronto withheld thousands of dollars in student fees from its Graduate Student Union for passing a similarly invective anti-Israel measure. University of British Columbia’s student government also passed a motion endorsing an Israel boycott on Wednesday, but its administration has yet to comment on the action.

“We await expectantly the news that SSMU will be cancelling its illegitimate anti-Israel policy,” FSWC Director of Policy Jaime Kirzner-Roberts commented Thursday, arguing that Israel is “the only nation to be targeted with such defamatory declarations and obscenely biased campaigns by student unions and groups.”

“Such divisive and discriminatory policies have no place on university campuses, and administrations have an obligation to uphold their commitments to providing an inclusive and respectful campus environmental for all,” she continued.

B’nai Brith Canada also commended the university’s statement, saying it “has come out strongly.”

“We are encouraged by this early and principled statement of intent by the McGill administration,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said. “No university should stand for antisemitism or votes contrary to the rule of law, and funds should not be provided to student organizations that are guilty of this conduct.”

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