McGill University Campus
McGill University CampusiStock

The McGill University in Montreal on Monday sided with Jewish student Jordyn Wright, after the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council voted to remove her from the SSMU Board of Directors simply because she was planning on participating on a Hillel Montreal trip to Israel.

Wright described what happened in a post on her Facebook page, noting that she was the only student facing dismissal from the Board of Directors despite the fact that two other Board members who are not Jewish had also planned on going on the trip.

McGill’s Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), Fabrice Labeau, said in an email sent to McGill students that the SSMU's decision fostered “a culture of ostracization” and that it is “contrary to the university's values of inclusion, diversity and respect.”

“While our University fully respects freedom of speech, it is also committed to maintaining a respectful environment for all members of our community. We are thus highly disturbed by the vote taken on November 28, 2019, by the SSMU Legislative Council, in relation to some student leaders enrolling in Hillel Montreal's Face to Face program to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories,” wrote Labeau.

“While diversity of opinion is fundamental and should be respected at all times, polarization that reaches a point where it fosters a culture of ostracization, or when our students do not feel respected on our campuses because of their identity, religious and political beliefs, will not be tolerated,” the letter read.

Labeau stressed that “that there is absolutely no place for discriminatory behaviour, attitude or discourse that run contrary to our core values and principles. As Deputy Provost, Student Life and Learning, and with a strong mandate from the Principal, I will remain vigilant to ensure that all members of our community feel safe, welcomed and respected on our campuses.”

Hasbara Canada noted that McGill's stance in support of Wright is an important victory for freedom of speech, human rights, and Jewish students – not just at McGill, but on campuses from across the country.

“Given the hostile antisemitic climate on campuses today following incidents at York, U of T St. George, and U of T Scarborough, providing trips such as the Hillel Face to Face program or the Hasbara Fellowships Canada program are essential in teaching students the reality about Israel, while also promoting tolerance, freedom of speech, objectivity, and an understanding of the issues,” said Daniel Koren, executive director of Hasbara Canada.

“We would like to, again, congratulate Wright on taking a principled stand against anti-Jewish bias and bigotry,” he continued. “Kol HaKavod!”

Rabbi Reuben Poupko, Co-Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs-Québec (CIJA-Québec), welcomed Labeau’s stance.

“CIJA commends the McGill administration for clearly articulating its opposition to attempts to ostracize a Jewish student on the basis of her identity,” he said in a statement.

“We are hopeful that the Deputy Provost’s statement will have its intended effect and that tonight the student body will firmly reject the harassment, intimidation, and exclusion of its members and henceforth refrain from raising obstacles to students’ freedom to pursue new and formative experiences,” added Rabbi Poupko.

“The unjust treatment experienced by Ms. Wright is clearly not a reflection of the broader McGill community, as evidenced by an open letter published by multiple SSMU councillors and constituents.”

“CIJA will continue to monitor developments on McGill’s campus and provide support to our partners at Hillel and the students at McGill who are addressing these instances of discrimination from the front line.”

McGill University made headlines in 2017 when the then-director of SSMU, Igor Sadikov, tweeted “punch a Zionist today”.

Sadikov later resigned from his post as director of the Students' Society of McGill University, even after the Arts Undergraduate Society at McGill had voted by a majority of 22-16 not to impeach him.

In February of 2016, the undergraduates association at McGill passed a motion in support of the BDS movement by a margin of 512-357, but subsequently failed in an online ratification period.