Five Liberal MPs call on Canadian universities to better protect Jewish students on campus

Five Liberal MPs call on Canadian universities to better protect Jewish students on campus

Five Liberal MPs call on Canadian universities to better protect Jewish students on campus

The MPs said what is happening to Jews across Canada, and particularly on university campuses, is ‘entirely unacceptable’

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OTTAWA — A group of Liberal MPs wants Canadian universities to commit to better protecting Jewish students, who they say are fearful on campus.

In a letter sent to the heads of over two dozen major Canadian universities Wednesday, Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather, David Lametti, Ben Carr, Marco Mendicino and Anna Gainey said what is happening to Jews across Canada, and particularly on university campuses across the country, is “entirely unacceptable.”

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“We have seen gunshots fired at Jewish schools, fire bombings at Jewish institutions, threats of boycott against Jewish-owned businesses and reports across the country of Jewish students feeling unsafe on their campuses,” reads the letter.

“This has been accompanied by a lack of action by university leadership to protect Jewish students.”

The five MPs say they’ve heard of Jewish students being harassed, subjected to “hostile environments” in class and that some student newspapers have refused to run articles from pro-Israel contributors since the terror attack against Israel on Oct. 7.

The Hamas attack killed more than 1,200 people and resulted in the kidnapping of another 240. During a pause in the fighting about half of those hostages were released, but many still remain in Hamas captivity. The Hamas-led health ministry says that roughly 18,000 Palestinians have died following Israel’s military response in Gaza. The death toll has not been independently verified.

“Whereas a university campus should be a safe sanctuary, we hear instead from Jewish students who are afraid to go to campus or certain classes. This is entirely unacceptable,” they wrote.

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The five Liberals are demanding universities respond to five questions about what they’re doing to combat rising antisemitism on campus by Jan. 20, 2024.

The questions come in light of the recent and widely denounced testimonies at the U.S. Congress by the presidents of University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), Harvard and MIT during which they refused to confirm that a call for the genocide against Jews would violate their institution’s code of conduct.

UPenn president Liz Magill resigned earlier this week over her controversial testimony that included saying that calling for the genocide of Jews was only harassment depending on the “context.”

“We do not believe that any context is necessary to confirm that the call to eradicate an identifiable group constitutes harassment, intimidation and incites hatred, and merits the strongest disciplinary measures available to a university,” the MPs wrote.

In an interview, Housefather said he’s worried a similar attitude reigns within Canadian university leadership, sparking the questions on if a call for genocide against Jewish people or the elimination of Israel is a violation of their respective codes of conduct.

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“Canadian students are feeling the same way as American students,” he said. “So, I’m forcing universities to think about it and I’m forcing them to do something about it.”

The MPs also asked the universities to detail what steps they have taken to “protect Jewish students” on campus since Oct. 7 and to   review their codes of conduct to ensure they properly deal with antisemitism.

Housefather said the answers, which will be tabled in the House of Commons, will also set the table for an impending study on antisemitism in universities at the House justice committee early next year.

The letter came the day after the Liberal government issued a statement calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on the condition that Hamas released all remaining hostages, stopped using civilians as “human shields” and gave up government in Gaza.

The same day, Canada joined with 152 other countries in voting for a UN resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza but did not denounce Hamas.

Thursday, several Liberals including Housefather, Mendicino and Carr, said they were disappointed in their government’s vote at the UN.

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