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July 28, 2022 3:08 pm
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McGill University Facing Lawsuit Over Israel Boycott Referendum

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The Arts Building at McGill University. Photo: Edward Bilodeau.

A McGill University student is suing the school for allegedly reneging on a pledge to defund a student government body over an Israel boycott measure, according to a Canadian Jewish group.

In March, McGill University officials promised to “take action” against the Student Society at McGill University (SSMU) for approving a policy accusing Israel of imposing “settler-colonial apartheid” against Palestinians, and backing 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. In May, the school announced that the SSMU would not ratify the policy.

On Wednesday, B’nai Brith Canada said it is assisting a third-year student with a lawsuit over the university’s failure to defund the SSMU, despite its assurances to do so.

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“We’re standing up for this Jewish student, and through him, all Jewish students on campus who feel unsafe and unwelcome as a result of continued anti-Israel referendums by their student society,” CEO of B’nai Brith Canada Michael Mostyn said in a statement. “It’s inexplicable that McGill would allow one anti-Israel referendum after another and continue to fund activities which are in violation of its own policies. In doing so, it is participating in creating an antisemitic environment.” 

In addition to McGill University, the Student Society at McGill University and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), a student group behind the policy, is also being sued.

“Let this be an example to all universities across Canada who are allowing this type of activity on campus,” Sam Goldstein, B’nai Brith Canada’s Director of Legal Affairs, said of the suit. “These types of referendums are not restricted to McGill, this is a problem in universities across Canada, and we hope other universities are paying attention.” 

In announcing the lawsuit, B’nai Brith Canada pointed to several past antisemitic incidents on campus, including a 2017 episode during which an SSMU member called on students to “punch a Zionist today.

McGill University declined to comment on ongoing litigation.

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