On July 7, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA) issued its report regarding the presence of anti-semitism in Canada. The coalition was formed in 2009 out of a conference organized by the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (IPCCAS). The coalition’s website states that the July report aims to “confront and combat” anti-Semitism.
Amongst some of the recommendations in the report is the call for politicians to condemn Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) events on Canadian university campuses.
The report states that, “While this phenomenon [anti-Semitism] takes many forms, including traditional expressions of anti-Semitism, it is increasingly manifesting itself in terms of anti-Israel discourse that denies the Jewish people the right to self determination.”
Certain student groups, like Hillel McGill, believe that events like IAW do not seek to foster academic discourse. Arielle Segal, co-President of Hillel McGill, said, “events like that are a failure and only seek to divide campus community as well as delegitimize, through inflammatory rhetoric and bully tactics, the only democracy in the region [Israel].”
Concerns of the report’s implications for free speech on campus have been raised by some student organizations. Anna Malla, internal coordinator at QPIRG McGill said, “this is clearly an affront to freedom of speech on campus, and labels an event [IAW] – designed to investigate injustices perpetrated against the Palestinian people by the Israeli state – as ‘anti-Semitic,’ when, in fact, this event has nothing to do with hatred toward any religious or ethnic group.”
The Inquiry Panel in the CPCCA report states that, in the interest of free speech, they do not think it appropriate for university administrators to ban the event from taking place.
Tadamon!, a Montreal collective of social justice activists associated with the planning of Israeli Apartheid Week, sees the report as misleading in the ways it represents anti-Semitic behaviour.
“Anti-Semitism should not be confused as criticism of the Israeli state,” stated Claire Hurtig, a representative of Tadamon!
Malla questioned the intentions of the report.
“It would be amazing if our government had designed this committee to actually fight against anti-Semitism,” she added.
Segal pointed to other reasons students may not want IAW events on campus. “For the most part students have simply tuned out. Students are simply tired of obsessive hate fests.”
In 2009, the Inquiry Panel invited the presidents of 25 Canadian universities to give testimony. Frederick Lowy, then-president emeritus of Concordia University, was one of the few who accepted.
In Lowy’s testimony, he stated that he believed that “by and large … most Canadian universities are safe.”