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CAEF Responds to U of T Report on Antisemitism

Antisemitism is the virus that needs combating at the University of Toronto, and it falls to the Governing Council to demonstrate leadership. It should not be solely the responsibility of Hillel on campus and various other Jewish student bodies to fight for the safety of all Jewish students. It should not be the sole responsibility of Jews to combat the Jew hatred that is exhibited by some faculty and student groups on campus. It should not be the sole responsibility of the Jewish community-at-large to demand civil rights, freedom of speech, and recognition of the legal rights of the nation state of Israel at any institution in Canadian society. It falls to the Governing Council to both define antisemitism, identify where it is happening, and stop it!

Irwin Cotler, Canada’s Special Envoy on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General, as well as an internationally recognized legal expert on human rights, has said of the U of T Working Group Report on Antisemitism, that the decision not to adopt the IHRA working definition antisemitism was not backed up by any scholarly or worthy arguments. He said this in an internationally viewed lecture on February 23rd, 2022, and noted that evidence of this is all over the news. Professor Cotler was also a contributor to the original drafting of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. We urge that this Council invite him to a meeting to discuss the need for such a resolution and action to implement it.

Once again, U of T students, without factual information, without regard to any guidelines against Jew hatred, and without intervention by the academic or administrative arms of the university, passed a disgusting, denigrating motion against the Jewish state. They then argued it was not antisemitic. This is an outrage.

We would like to draw your attention to various Governing Council approved policies that could be seen as having not been fairly applied to the Jewish students, and thus it is explicitly obvious that IHRA is an essential tool required at this (and all) universities. (Bolded words are by the author of this letter.)

Statement on Human Rights

In this affirmation, the University

  • acknowledges that it conducts its teaching, research and other activities in the context of a richly diverse society;

  • recognizes that the attainment of excellence in pursuit of its mission is furthered by the contribution made by persons reflecting this rich diversity;

  • acts within its purview to prevent or remedy discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status, disability, receipt of public assistance or record of offences; and

  • acts conscientiously in keeping with its own policies and existing legislation related to human rights,…

CAEF contends that the adoption of any BDS policies by any arm or related U of T body including student clubs and the Student Union is in breach of this policy as it discriminates against people on the basis of their Jewish ancestry and specifically it discriminates against Israelis on the basis of their citizenship, place of origin and as with all Jews, their ethnic origin. Since the intent of ALL BDS activity is the total elimination of the Jewish state, how could you interpret this otherwise and why do you allow such hateful activities within the U of T Corporation?

Freedom of Speech Policy

The existence of an institution where unorthodox ideas, alternative modes of thinking and living, and radical prescriptions for social ills can be debated contributes immensely to social and political change and the advancement of human rights both inside and outside the University. Often this debate may generate controversy and disputes among members of the University and of the wider community. In such cases, the University's primary obligation is to protect the free speech of all involved. The University must allow the fullest range of debate. It should not limit that debate by preordaining conclusions, or punishing or inhibiting the reasonable exercise of free speech.

Of necessity, there are limits to the right of free speech, for example, when members of the University use speech as a direct attack that has the effect of preventing the lawful exercise of speech by members or invited guests, or interfering with the conduct of authorized University business, the University may intervene. Similarly, although no member of the University should use language or indulge in behaviour intended to demean others on the basis of their race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship,creed, sex, sexual orientation, handicap, age, marital status, family status, the receipt of public assistance or record of offence, the values of mutual respect and civility may, on occasion, be superseded by the need to protect lawful freedom of speech. However, members should not weigh lightly the shock, hurt anger or even the silencing effect that may be caused by use of such speech.

The right to free speech is complemented by the right of freedom of association. The right to free speech extends to individuals cooperating in groups. All members have the freedom to communicate in any reasonable way, to hold and advertise meetings, to debate and to engage in peaceful assemblies and demonstrations, to organize groups for any lawful activities and to make reasonable use of University facilities, in accordance with its policies as they are defined from time to time and subject to the University's rights and responsibilities.

CAEF contends that “free speech” that spreads hatred and malicious bigotry, that is based on fallacious misinformation, that promotes lies, and that has the sole intent of segregating Israeli and Jewish students from the body of the university, equating Israel with every ancient antisemitic trope against the Jewish people is so clearly unacceptable as to call out the hatred that was associated with Nazism.

Equity and Human Rights

At the University of Toronto, we strive to be an equitable and inclusive community, rich with diversity, protecting the human rights of all persons, and based upon understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of every person. We seek to ensure to the greatest extent possible that all students and employees enjoy the opportunity to participate as they see fit in the full range of activities that the University offers, and to achieve their full potential as members of the University community.

Our support for equity is grounded in an institution-wide commitment to achieving a working, teaching, and learning environment that is free of discrimination and harassment as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code. In striving to become an equitable community, we will also work to eliminate, reduce or mitigate the adverse effects of any barriers to full participation in University life that we find, including physical, environmental, attitudinal, communication or technological.

CAEF contends that the University of Toronto is NOT applying equitable protection for Jews and on that basis, Jewish students are hindered from full participation in university life. The very fact that Jewish students often are hiding their identity is proof of this fact. Students that express the view they support Israel, that they are Zionists, meaning lovers of their ancient homeland, recognizing the right to self-determination of this ancient people in their original homeland, often report being harassed, discriminated against by some faculty, and experiencing painful demonization and dismissiveness by student organizations such as the GSU, and the various student unions.

Student Code of Conduct Policy

7. The University must define standards of student behaviour and make provisions for student discipline with respect to conduct that jeopardizes the good order and proper functioning of the academic and non-academic programs and activities of the University or its divisions, that endangers the health, safety, rights or property of its members or visitors, or that adversely affects the property of the University or bodies related to it, where such conduct is not, for the University's defined purposes, adequately regulated by civil and criminal law.

(e) No person shall engage in a course of vexatious conduct that is directed at one or more specific individuals, and

that is based on the race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status, or disability, and

that is known to be unwelcome, and that exceeds the bounds of freedom of expression or academic freedom as these are understood in University polices and accepted practices, including but not restricted to, those explicitly adopted.

CAEF contends that the University administration has known for at least two decades that students who campaign on campus against the existence of Israel contribute to the discomfort of Jewish students, that this behavior is unbecoming to academic freedom which should be based on mutual respect, diversity, civil discourse, good order and without intention to cause harm. That is not what the behavior of student government is displaying nor is the behavior displayed during the infamous, disinformation campaign held annually under the title of Israel Apartheid Week. There is not now nor has there ever been apartheid in Israel, so why is the Governing Council tolerating days on end of lies, deceit and Jew hatred?

The University of Toronto is badly in need of a campaign to End Jew Hatred! Start now.

Adopt IHRA and implement it with consequences that demonstrate a commitment to the equal rights of Jewish students, regardless of their position on Israel, their degree of religiosity, their ethno-racial identity or their current citizenship.


Andria Spindel, Executive Director


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