Disinviting Ayaan Hirsi Ali for a convocation speech and honorary degree is not equal to shun a college president to speak at a Jewish shul in Winnipeg. Invoking the freedom of speech argument doesn’t hold up in the Brandeis University criticism by the right-wing press and organisations in the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The shunning of David Barnard is a viscious reprisal by the leadership in the Winnipeg Jewish community, I would label as ‘price-tag’ for a decision based on the Manitoba’s human rights code.
(The Forward) – The struggle over Israel in the Jewish community is heating up in Winnipeg, Canada. David Barnard, the President of the University of Manitoba — the city’s largest university — has been publicly un-invited to speak at one of the larger shuls in the city, Shaarey Zedek. The president was to have spoken at an interfaith service during Yom HaShoah.
He was uninvited, according to Ian Staniloff, the synagogue’s executive director, because he had allowed Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) to go ahead on the university campus. “Our board and congregation and community leaders felt it completely inappropriate that he take part,” said Staniloff, “because it’s visceral and personal and such a solemn occasion for us. We were more concerned in the perception that by having him here we’re basically endorsing him as an individual who would be representative of the community in speaking about this.”
What an extremely disappointing decision.
As is often the case with these things, politics and legal maneuverings preceded IAW. It appears that the Student Union removed an organization promoting IAW, Students Against Israeli Apartheid, from official university status. Barnard did not override that decision, but he allowed an outside group to host IAW events on campus because, we are told, a legal opinion noted that preventing IAW from taking place would violate Manitoba’s human rights code.
Unlike British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta, Manitoba’s current Human Rights Code does not have “anti-hate speech” provisions. In this province, The Code has a much narrower focus. It prohibits the publishing, broadcasting, circulating or publicly displaying signs and statements that discriminate or advocate discrimination in an activity to which The Code applies. During a Commission round table discussion on the topic of hate speech, some participants passionately believed that The Code needs to be strengthened, while others feared an infringement of freedom of expression.
(Winnipeg Sun) – Last year, UMSU revoked the Students Against Israel Apartheid’s status on campus, making them ineligible to rent student space. The group applied to rent campus space as an external group, which the university allowed.
In a statement, Barnard said lawyers advised the university that it could be in violation of the Manitoba Human Rights code if it refused the group space on campus.
“I am deeply saddened by the insinuations made about me personally and more importantly about the institution I lead,” Barnard said. “The decisions made in regard to the Israel Apartheid Week activities were independent of any personal views concerning (the Canada-Palestine Student Network) and its stance. The University of Manitoba enjoys a meaningful and respectful friendship with the Jewish community. This relationship has been built over many years and informs the fabric of our institution.”
In a statement, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg said the school’s decision to rent the space was “unfortunate.”
“We wish to reiterate that we have enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the University of Manitoba and its president,” the statement said. “Within the next few days, the leadership of the Jewish community and the of the University of Manitoba will be meeting (to) discuss issues (that) affect both the Jewish and broader Winnipeg communities.”
Israeli Apartheid Week is an annual event held in cities and campuses across the world portraying Israel as an apartheid state for its treatment of Palestinians. It promotes a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, according to CAMERA, an Israeli lobby group.
Canada’s University of Manitoba Students’ Union Becomes the First in NA to Ban ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ by Rhonda Spivak, L.L.B, Editor, April 14, 2013
(Jewish Defense League) – The University of Manitoba Students Union (UMSU) has become the first in North America to vote to ban Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) on campus and strip the group Students Against Israel Apartheid (SAIA) of official student group status.
The motion bars SAIA from receiving student union funding or using activity space in student-union controlled buildings and is a stunning setback for proponents of Israel Apartheid Week. The motion passed by secret ballot 19 to 15.
The motion is the brain child of Josh Morry, a student with savvy debating skills who is graduating this year form the Asper School of Business. The motion relies on UMSU Policy 2009 which states that “UMSU does not condone behaviour that is likely to undermine the dignity [or] self-esteem … of any of its members.” It further states that “UMSU is committed to an inclusive and respectful work and learning environment free from discrimination or harassment as prohibited in the Manitoba Human Rights Code (the “Code).”
Morry argued that by referring to Israel as an apartheid and racist state, SAIA essentially labels Jews, (the vast majority of whom identify with the state as Zionists), as well as students who are Israeli on campus as “racists,” which is likely to undermine their dignity.