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B’nai Brith Canada Welcomes New Report Concerning U of T

The Honourable Thomas A. Cromwell (CBA National/ABC National)

TORONTO – B’nai Brith Canada welcomes the publication of The Honourable Thomas A. Cromwell’s Independent Review of the Search Process for the Directorship of the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law.

We are proud to have contributed to this report. B’nai Brith Canada made written submissions, in December 2020, as noted in Appendix B to the report.

In the Independent Review, The Honourable Thomas A. Cromwell reviewed the relevant facts and came to the conclusion that the decision to forgo hiring Dr. Valentina Azarova was not based on outside pressure or influence.

Mr. Cromwell also emphasized that, in general, outside pressure or influence is inappropriate and has no place in university hiring decisions “unless,” as he wrote, “the matter raised can be demonstrated to be evidence of unfitness for the duties of the position.”

He emphasized the need to maintain confidentiality, and the need to formulate clear, written policy guidelines so that misunderstandings such as happened in this case are avoided in the future.

B’nai Brith Canada agrees with the report’s conclusions, and endorses the recommendation to formulate clear and written policy guidelines for the selection committee and others to follow in the future.

However, and although we appreciate Mr. Cromwell’s need to maintain a narrow focus, it is unfortunate that he did not address Dr. Azarova’s controversial academic record.

Michael Mostyn, the CEO of B’nai Brith Canada said “We maintain that Dr. Azarova would have been an entirely unsuitable appointment. The director of an international human rights program at a law faculty should not be exclusively and relentlessly advocating on one side of a complex controversy. Her appointment would have alienated Jewish law students and professors, or anyone who in any way supported Israel, and contributed to a discriminatory and unsafe environment at the law school. The problematic academic record and activism of Dr. Azarova needed to be considered by the faculty.

“Indeed, in our December submissions to the Search Review, we noted that had the university applied its policies and procedures on hiring, the Search Committee would almost certainly have chosen as its preferred candidate someone other than Dr. Azarova.”

With respect to the Search Review, David Matas, B’nai Brith’s Senior Legal Counsel, remarked: “It is ironic that the Search Committee was guilty of the very reprehensible behaviour of undue pressure on the University that others had accused outsiders of having imposed and that Justice Cromwell found did not occur.” To read more of the reaction from Mr. Matas please click here.

It’s not without coincidence that in its submission “Confronting Antisemitism at the University of Toronto” (June 2020) to President Meric Gertler, B’nai Brith argued that the university’s failure to apply its bylaws and policies equally in the case of Jewish students, faculty and staff has impaired the struggle against discrimination in their cases.

A recent Town Hall explored painful problems U of T students and faculty have endured and explained how the university’s finally applying its bylaws, in addition to adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, would considerably rectify this chronic injustice.