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B’nai Brith Calls on Government to Examine U of T Hiring Process

University of Toronto (CBC)

Nov 3, 2021

TORONTO — B’nai Brith Canada is calling on the Federal Government to investigate a troubling hiring process at the University of Toronto.

Last year, the university’s law school sought to hire Valentina Azarova, a controversial academic based in Germany, to lead the prestigious International Human Rights Program (IHRP). B’nai Brith strongly objected to the hiring after reports emerged of Azarova’s disturbing connections to organizations affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, (PFLP) a designated terrorist entity by the Government of Canada.

Despite Azarova’s unsavoury connections and numerous objections, including from B’nai Brith, U of T continuously sought to hire Azarova and in doing so, potentially violated immigration law, notably the Immigration and Refugee Protections Act and Regulations.

B’nai Brith is now concerned that “the most recent search process [by U of T] played fast and loose with Canadian immigration requirements,” David Matas, Senior Legal Counsel for B’nai Brith Canada, wrote in a letter sent this week to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada. “This was not an attempt to comply with Canadian law; it was rather an attempt to circumvent it.”

As a result, B’nai Brith has asked the Government to express concern about the manner in which the second search was conducted.

“In particular,” Matas wrote, “we suggest that the Ministry state that it was inappropriate for:

1) the Faculty of Law to indicate publicly that they had reached out to Ms. Azarova to let her know that the application for the position had been reopened but stated nothing similar about reaching out to the Canadians who had applied previously for the position;

2) the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) to censure U of T for rejecting the recommendation of the search committee to hire a foreign applicant when there were qualified Canadians. . .;
3) CAUT to maintain the censure after the U of T readvertised for the position and, by so doing, discouraging, and indeed likely deterring, Canadians from reapplying;
4) U of T, when re-advertising the position of Program Director, to indicate that the qualifications of Canadian candidates would be assessed, without a similar indication for foreign candidates, implying that the qualifications of Ms. Azarova, if she reapplied, would not be reassessed;
5) U of T to change the job requirements from the original advertisement by removing a requirement that Ms. Azarova did not meet, that the applicant be qualified to practice law in Ontario or, at least, another jurisdiction.”

Matas concluded: “We invite the Ministry to conduct its own investigation to confirm the facts set out in this letter and our previous letter. The Government of Canada should be concerned not only when an attempt to circumvent federal law is presented to the Government for approval. The Government should be concerned even before the attempt gets that far, once the effort to circumvent the law is undertaken and becomes public. We ask the Government to make clear to U of T, its Faculty of Law and CAUT that what did happen should not have happened.”