University of Toronto's University College Building (The Varsity)
Last week, a Jewish student wrote to the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (GSU), asking it to consider supporting an ongoing campaign by Hillel to secure kosher food access on campus. In response, the student was told: “I doubt the Executive Committee will be comfortable recommending this motion given that the organisation hosting it (Hillel) is openly pro-Israel.”
The response email added that any move to support the kosher food campaign could be contrary to “the will of the membership,” an apparent reference to the GSU’s adoption of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement targeting the Jewish State in 2012.
Late Friday, the GSU stated via Facebook that any member of its Board can submit a motion regarding kosher food, but gave no indication that the Executive was backing away from its previous stance on the issue.
The GSU is the only student union in Canada with a committee dedicated to promoting the BDS Movement. A complaint against this BDS Committee has been pending before U of T’s Complaint and Resolution Council for Student Societies (CRCSS) for over six months, but has not yet been heard. The complaint alleges, among other things, that the existence of the BDS Committee violates U of T’s anti-discrimination policies.
“Shamefully, the GSU has been permitted for years now to cultivate a hostile attitude toward Jewish graduate students at U of T,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “The U of T Administration must act against antisemitism on campus – fine words are simply not enough.”
On Sunday, B’nai Brith wrote to officials at the University, asking them to swiftly condemn the GSU’s stance on the kosher food initiative, ensure that the complaint against the GSU BDS Committee is expedited, and work to make kosher food more accessible on campus.
B’nai Brith has intervener status in a lawsuit between the Canadian Federation of Students and the Ontario government, where it is defending Jewish students’ rights not to be forced to pay fees to student governments that support antisemitic policies. The GSU also has intervener status in that litigation, but is arguing that students should have no choice but to fund student unions, including the GSU itself.