June 20th, 2024

University presidents say there’s more work to do to combat antisemitism on campuses

By The Canadian Press on May 27, 2024.

OTTAWA – Four university presidents conceded to members of Parliament today that antisemitism is a problem on their campuses.

MPs questioned the presidents of the University of Toronto, McGill University, Concordia University and the University of British Columbia about their codes of conduct, responses to pro-Palestinian encampments and efforts to include Jewish students in equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives.

When Liberal MP Anthony Housefather asked all four about whether antisemitism is a significant problem on their campuses, they all said yes.

University of Toronto president Meric Gertler said there have been “comprehensive and multifaceted” efforts to combat antisemtisim.

“Are they enough? Until there are no further instances of antisemitism, he answer for us and for society at large, must be no,” Gertler said during his open remarks.

Their testimony on Parliament Hill comes as Jewish leaders, students and faculty have been voicing concerns over an increase in hate speech and violence since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war last fall.

Graham Carr, Concordia’s president, highlighted several incidents that have occurred at the school since Oct. 7, including what he described as a “disgraceful” attack on the Jewish group Hillel Concordia.

Carr also noted there has been peaceful activism on campus such as pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups are running information tables next to each other without incident.

“I share these examples both positive and negative to be transparent. Yes, tensions exist at Concordia but there has also been a remarkable calm.” Gertler said the school’s senior administration has been regularly consulting with Jewish faculty and students since Oct. 7 to hear their concerns and advice on how to support them.

Gertler also highlighted an apology in 2022 by the university’s faculty of medicine and affiliated hospitals for the “disgraceful historical practice” of imposing quotas for Jewish medical students and hospital trainees from the 1940s to the 1960s.

“Our efforts to combat antisemitism are comprehensive and multifaceted. Are they enough? Until there are no further instances of antisemitism, the answer for us and for society at large, must be no,” Gertler said during his open remarks.

The appearance came as the universities are grappling with encampments of pro-Palestinian protesters.

Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman questioned Gertler about the encampment on its campus, asking whether any students have been suspended for behaviour that has endangered Jewish students.

Gertler said that while no one has been suspended yet, “processes are ongoing.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2024.

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