Canadian student federation supports BDS

Canadian Federation of Students approves resolution supporting BDS. Hillels across Canada condemn the move.

Elad Benari,

BDS activists
BDS activists

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) approved a resolution supporting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement at its annual general meeting in Ottawa on Monday.

The CFS endorsed a statement that “the ongoing occupation of Palestine be condemned” and also approved supporting “different Palestine-solidarity organizations,” with in-kind support and financial donations of up to $500.

The resolution also recommended that “a statement be released to our membership condemning the recent atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza.”

The CFS represents 500,000 students.

In response, Hillels across Canada issued a statement condemning the decision.

“This latest call for a boycott of Israel is anti-academic, fuelled by hatred, and is counterproductive to peace. The motion is rife with factual inaccuracies and historical distortions. In its obsessive campaign against exclusively one country and one community, the CFS has further marginalized the thousands of Jewish students whom it is tasked with representing,” the statement said.

“Time and time again, the CFS demonstrates that it is entirely out of touch with its students and has little regard for their needs. It is no surprise that so many universities have, or are in the process of, severing their ties with the organization.”

“As Jewish Canadians and academics, we are disheartened by the amount of energy invested in disparaging Israelis, rather than creating spaces for those with competing narratives and historical experiences to come together to engage with complex issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the statement continued.

It noted that universities across Canada “continue to reject boycotts of Israel and are instead deepening their ties with Israeli schools. In 2013, Canadian universities represented by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (now Universities Canada) signed an agreement with the Association of University Heads of Israel to facilitate, promote and support research collaboration and exchanges of faculty and students between both countries. To date, not a single university in North America has endorsed a boycott of Israel.”

In 2014, the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students unanimously passed a motion to boycott Israel.

In January of 2017, a planned referendum at a university in London, Ontario, on whether to endorse BDS was cancelled after Jewish students successfully argued that it violated the mandate of the college’s student council.

In May of that year, the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia rejected a call to support BDS.

In October 2017, the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) voted against a motion in favor of adopting BDS, thanks to students who organized a campaign opposing the motion.

More recently, the University of Ottawa in March rejected for the third time a motion to endorse BDS.

In 2016, the Canadian parliament approved by a large majority a draft resolution rejecting and condemning BDS.

229 MPs from both the opposition Conservatives and the ruling Liberal party voted in favor of the resolution. 51 MPs voted against it.