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University_of_Windsor,_Windsor,_Ontario_(21584825960) by Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Why the University of Windsor Encampment Agreement Violates Antisemitism and Academic Freedom Standards

The University of Windsor this week reached agreement with protesters in a campus encampment that raises serious concerns of antisemitism and infringement on academic freedom. While most universities across Canada were relying on the University of Toronto court ruling that the encampments were unlawful trespass to clear their encampments, the University of Windsor instead reached agreement that has sparked alarm among many groups. Indeed, given evidence at the House of Common Justice committee of harassment, antisemitism, and hate speech on the Windsor campus, it is astonishing that the university has ignored those threats and instead concluded a discriminatory agreement that fuels fears that Jews are no longer welcome on campus.

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July 12, 2024 4 comments News
No violence no hate speech by John S. Quarterman CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/aDkJbi

Court Issues Injunction Against University of Toronto Encampment on Trespass Grounds, Finds “No Doubt That Some of the Speech on the Exterior of the Encampment Rises to the Level of Hate Speech”

Ontario Superior Court of Justice Markus Koehnen issued his much anticipated ruling involving the encampment at the University of Toronto late yesterday, granting the University its requested order that can be used to remove the encampment. Under the order, protesters have until 6:00 pm today to clear the encampment. If they fail to do so, the court ruled that the University can levy the full range of sanctions, including “physical enforcement of the order, prosecution for trespass, liability for contempt of court and the full range of disciplinary sanctions at the University.” The basis of the order lies in trespass with the court concluding that “there is ample judicial authority that says protesters have no right to set up camp on or otherwise occupy property that does not belong to them, no matter how much more effective their protest would be if they were able to do so.”

Trespass combined with evidence of irreparable harm if the order was not granted provided the legal foundation for the decision, but the court did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that the encampment was violent or antisemitic. The court’s conclusion on antisemitism has been seized up on encampment supporters, but the reality is that it did find hate speech at the exterior of the encampment, which from the perspective of Jewish students and faculty surely requires University action. In fact, the court finds that “that there have been incidents of hate speech and physical harassment of people, predominantly but not exclusively directed at people wearing kippahs or some other indicator of Jewish identity in the general vicinity of the encampment” and that “the possibility of further escalation based on past physical altercations and past use of actual hate speech outside the encampment amounts to some level irreparable harm but not significantly so.”

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July 3, 2024 13 comments News
Stèle_ancienne_synagogue_renversée_par_une_auto_2_mars_2019 by Claude Truong-Ngoc / Wikimedia Commons - cc-by-sa-4.0, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

When Antisemitism Strikes Close to Home

In the 269 days since October 7th, at least 12 synagogues and 18 Jewish schools and community centres have been attacked or vandalized in Canada. The latest two synagogue attacks took this place this weekend in Toronto, which struck particularly close to home since one of the targets – the Pride of Israel synagogue – has been my family’s synagogue for decades. It was where I had my bar mitzvah, where my mother served as President of the Sisterhood committee, and where we attended annual high holiday services. The Pride of Israel did not start as a synagogue. It was founded in 1905 as a sick benefit society to provide medical aid to its members, primarily Jewish immigrants newly arrived in Canada. Much like the Jewish immigrant community, it gradually moved north, first as a synagogue on Spadina in the 1940s and later to its current location near Steeles and Bathurst.

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July 1, 2024 3 comments News
IMG_2818 by Amine GHRABI https://flic.kr/p/rz4DLC CC BY-NC 2.0

Government’s Choice for Chief of Human Rights Commission Cited Terrorism as a Rational Strategy With High Rates of Success

The government’s choice for chief of the Canadian Human Rights Commission has been mired in controversy this week given his failure to disclose a record of posts and appearances that call into question the ability for Jewish or Zionist Canadians to get a fair, impartial hearing at the Commission. Birju Dattani, who formerly was known as Mujahid Dattani, is now the subject of an independent investigation by the Ministry of Justice as the calls for his resignation or replacement from stakeholder groups continue to mount, former Justice Minister David Lametti questions his suitability for the position, and MPs express non-confidence in him.

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June 29, 2024 5 comments News
lets start over by andrew j. cosgriff CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6jStC

Virani’s Failed Human Rights Commission Choice: Why the Dattani Appointment Irreparably Harms both the Commission and Bill C-63

Justice Minister Arif Virani and the federal government spent years crafting Bill C-63, the Online Harms Act. After facing widespread criticism on the initial plans in 2021, the government consulted extensively before tabling a revised bill in February 2024 that ditched much of its previous thinking in favour of a more flexible “duty to act responsibly” for Internet platforms. Like many, I’ve argued that the Internet provisions in that bill are much improved and provide a good starting point for dealing with a real issue. However, mounting concerns about the inclusion of Criminal Code and Human Rights Act reforms – alongside doubts about enforcement – have sparked fears that the bill could be used to suppress lawful speech with all three opposition parties expressing concern about the bill’s current structure.

Given the concerns, the government has an uphill battle building public trust in the legislation of which enforcement is a critical component. In short, if Canadians do not trust the two agencies charged with enforcing the law – a future Digital Safety Commission and the current Canadian Human Rights Commission – then no amount of tinkering will save the government’s legislative plans.

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June 27, 2024 4 comments News