Commentary | Response to “A statement of solidarity”


We should respect deeply held convictions and the wish to react to something that is taken as an injustice, as done by some McGill students regarding the tragic events in the Middle East. I wish to comment only on the McGill-Hebrew University Summer Human Rights Program, because it is the one McGill activity that is specifically mentioned by name in the statement.

I find it more than a little ironic to argue that in order to advance the cause of human rights, McGill should not have participated in a program on human rights. Such a position seems defensible only if this program were not a genuine forum to explore and debate human rights issues, but instead a sham designed to legitimize whatever policies and practices are in place.

Needless to say, neither the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism nor the Hebrew University Minerva Center for Human Rights would have had any interest in running such a sham. On the contrary, the program sought to address the most challenging issues, including self-determination, minority rights, the laws of war, population displacement, socio-economic rights, children’s rights, et cetera.

No issue was too contentious to address, no reality too hard to contemplate, and no position too extreme to be considered. Indeed, both institutions strove to ensure diversity within each contingent, and a truly wide spectrum of opinions was presented. The outcome was a learning experience that left everyone with a deeper understanding of the complexities of situations like the current conflict in Gaza. Anyone committed to justice in the Middle East, whatever their deeply-held convictions, should wish for more such programs, not fewer.

The McGill-Hebrew University Summer Human Rights program was discontinued in 2014 because of lack of funding, but it was certainly part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Professor René Provost initiated the McGill-Hebrew University Summer Human Rights Program during his tenure as the director of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism.