B’nai Brith Canada is standing in solidarity with a Jewish Toronto school board trustee who they say is being persecuted for speaking out against anti-Semitism.
According to B’nai Brith, the situation began in May, during a controversy over material distributed by Toronto District School Board (TDSB) equity advisor Javier Dávila. In response, TDSB trustee Alexandra Lulka expressed her concern on social media and called for a full investigation by the board.
Lulka, who is Jewish, represents Ward 5 – York Centre, which has the largest Jewish population of any TDSB ward.
B’nai Brith noted that for calling for an investigation of the posting of the material – which B’nai Brith described at the time as “virulently anti-Israel teaching material, repeatedly describing Israelis as a whole as ‘colonizers’ in their indigenous homeland” – a complaint about Lulka’s actions was made to the TDSB integrity commissioner.
The commissioner’s report will be on the agenda at a board meeting on Wednesday.
While the commissioner cleared Lulka of allegations of harassment, improperly influencing a TDSB investigation, and maliciously or falsely defaming the reputation of a TDSB employee, B’nai Brith is calling out the report for accusing Lulka of “discriminating against Muslims and Palestinians, and recommend[ing] that the Board censure her for this.”
“Bizarrely, the commissioner reached this conclusion even though Lulka never referenced Muslims or Palestinians in her comments, and the person whose actions she was criticizing, Dávila, is neither Muslim nor Palestinian,” B’nai Brith said in a statement. “Moreover, the commissioner found that some of what Dávila distributed ‘could reasonably be considered to contain anti-Semitic material, references, or allusions’ and that ‘materials contained in the links support the use of violence and terrorism against Israeli Jews.’”
B’nai Brith is calling attention to the matter due to what is said was the inherent message a censure given to Lulka would send to the Jewish community.
“This latest TDSB report is a brazen attack on the rights of every Canadian Jew,” said B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn. “Jewish trustees elected in large part by Jewish constituents have a fundamental right to condemn materials of the sort described by the commissioner. Moreover, the report is deeply legally flawed, and raises a reasonable apprehension of bias.”
Mostyn added: “If Trustee Lulka is censured for simply doing her job, then the message sent by the TDSB is that Jewish perspectives are not welcome and Jewish safety is irrelevant.”
B’nai Brith called a passage of the report “particularly chilling” for alleging that “Lulka was only allowed to condemn the anti-Semitic portions of the materials if she did so while also ‘appropriately characterizing other materials as important, positive pro-Palestinian discourse.’”
“It is not clear why the commissioner felt entitled to order a Jewish trustee – or any trustee – to endorse a pro-Palestinian political position,” B’nai Brith said. “In order to safeguard our rights as a community, B’nai Brith urges all Canadians of conscience to email TDSB trustees in advance of Wednesday’s meeting, asking them to reject the unjust censure of Trustee Alexandra Lulka.”