May 15, 2023
TORONTO – B’nai Brith Canada commends the University of Toronto (U of T) for a decision to continue withholding a portion of students’ tuition fees allocated to the Graduate Student’s Union (GSU).
These fees, withheld in a precedent-setting development by the U of T last year, will remain frozen until the GSU addresses issues of antisemitism related to its endorsement of the controversial boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) movement, as identified by Provost Cheryl Regehr in her decision letter last year.
Since March, 2022, the university has now withheld more than $20,000 earmarked for the GSU.
The decision by U of T marked the culmination of tireless efforts from Chaim Katz, a Jewish graduate student who contacted the Complaint and Resolution Council for Student Societies (CRCSS). He said the GSU was complacent in discrimination, based on nationality, through its funding of BDS. In response, the CRCSS issued recommendations the GSU ignored. The CRCSS issued additional recommendations that led to the issuance of the Provost’s decision letter.
B’nai Brith was proud to support Katz throughout the ordeal and is pleased to continue to celebrate the positive repercussions that have followed. The BDS movement is opposed to the right of the Jewish people to a state in their ancestral homeland. It regularly engages in antisemitic activity, which include unfairly vilifying the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), applying double standards to the State of Israel and denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.
The decision to continue to withhold fees is a welcome development for those who have been concerned about growing levels of antisemitism on university campuses in recent years. It also sets a precedent for other Canadian universities to emulate.
In 2022, Dr. Ayelet Kuper, while serving as U of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine’s Senior Advisor on Antisemitism, released a paper in the Canadian Medical Education Journal documenting that U of T’s inaction and its refusal to address the rampant antisemitism within the medical faculty enabled the manifestation of a culture of antisemitism.
B’nai Brith has consistently urged the U of T to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. The university had previously created an Antisemitism Working Group (AWG), which released its final report in December, 2021. The report not only failed to adopt the IHRA definition, oddly, it explicitly stated that the definition was inappropriate for adoption by any academic institution. The AWG report was immediately criticized as being inadequate by B’nai Brith.
IHRA has been adopted by leading academic institutions throughout the world, including Stanford University, the University of Melbourne, and Oxford University. Sadly, no universities have yet adopted this leading definition of antisemitism in Canada.
“U of T has met its obligation to its Jewish students and faculty by continuing to withhold fees from the GSU’s ongoing endorsement of an antisemitic movement. Now is the time for U of T and all Canadian universities to adopt the IHRA definition. Student groups cannot be allowed to foster an environment of hate by campus administrators.” said Michael Mostyn, B’nai Brith’s Chief Executive Officer.
B’nai Brith is currently supporting a student at McGill University who is suing for failing to withhold student fees after repeated anti-Israel referendums, in violation of the university’s own policies.