November 22, 2023
Montreal’s Superior Court has ordered a temporary stay on the ratification of an anti-Israel policy voted on by students at McGill University this week. The order was released Nov. 21.
The referendum question was placed on the McGill University Student Society (SSMU) fall 2023 ballot. It demanded that the university denounce the war in Gaza as well as cut ties with any groups that are complicit in “genocide, settler-colonialism, apartheid or ethnic cleansing against Palestinians.” The policy was approved by 78 percent of student voters. About 35 percent of eligible students cast a ballot.
A McGill student, who did not wish to be identified, launched the request for a legal injunction challenging the ‘Policy Against Genocide in Palestine.’ The court did not rule on the permanent injunction but ordered a temporary stay on the implementation of the policy until the next hearing in March 2024.
B’nai Brith Canada supported the student in the lawsuit and said that the proposed policy is discriminatory and contrary to the union’s own constitution and bylaws.
“The implication is that the student society can’t do anything with the vote until the matter is heard in court,” B’nai Brith Canada’s Quebec Regional Director Hank Topas told The CJN.
“If it were a perfect world, McGill University would stand up and stop the nonsense being committed in its name by the student union. They (McGill) can stop using words and show some action.”
The university had threatened to terminate the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the student society if the policy was adopted which means barring the union from collecting student fees as well as using McGill’s name.
“If the proposed policy is adopted, our view is that the SSMU will be in breach of its own constitution; consequently, the SSMU will have violated its memorandum of agreement with McGill,” read an earlier statement from the McGill administration.
B’nai Brith called on the university administration to take action against the student union.
“It is sad that a student had to go to the courts for justice on this issue because the university has repeatedly failed to hold its student associations accountable for breaking their own rules,” said B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn.
“Of course, we welcome the court’s decision to stay the referendum until a final decision can be reached, but McGill does not have to wait until then to do the right thing.”
Last month, the university administration demanded that the SSMU remove McGill’s name from Students in Solidarity with Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) after the club glorified the Oct. 7 massacre on social media, calling the attack carried out by Hamas ‘heroic.’ The demand has not been fulfilled.
In 2022, a similar anti-Israel policy was voted on and approved but the student union never ratified it. McGill threatened to end the MoA if the policy was not withdrawn.
McGill student Jonah Fried sued the university, the student union and a pro-Palestine group on campus alleging that policy was “designed to create a climate of fear and intimidation against Jewish students.”