McGill University Campus
McGill University Campus iStock

Responding to outreach by B’nai Brith Canada, and the many concerned citizens spurred on by it to action, the president of McGill University in Montreal has come out strongly against a recent student referendum that has dangerous implications for Jewish students.

On Monday of this week, the Students’ Society at McGill University (SSMU) announced the endorsement via referendum of a document that accuses Israel of engaging in “settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians,” and committing SSMU to boycotting all entities allegedly “complicit” in this activity, among other measures.

SSMU proceeded with the referendum despite an interim order from its own Judicial Board on March 13 stating that the question should be removed from the ballot until a full ruling on its legality could be made.

Immediately after the referendum concluded, B’nai Brith reached out to McGill Administration and insisted that they withhold fees from SSMU in order to protect Jewish students.

On Wednesday, McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier responded directly to B’nai Brith by email, stating that McGill considers the referendum “to be inconsistent with the SSMU constitution as well as previous decisions by its internal governance bodies. We are also concerned about alleged irregularities in the referendum process. These views have been communicated to the SSMU leadership and we advised them to take prompt and appropriate remedial action consistent with SSMU’s obligations under its Memorandum of Agreement with the University, failing which the University will take action.”

“We are encouraged by this early and principled statement of intent by the McGill Administration,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “No university should stand for antisemitism or votes contrary to the rule of law, and funds should not be provided to student organizations that are guilty of this conduct.

“B’nai Brith will remain actively engaged in this issue until justice is done and SSMU rescinds its extreme attacks against Jewish life on campus,” he added.

McGill University has been in the headlines in the past due to antisemitism. In 2017, 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 2019, the SSMU Legislative Council voted to remove a Jewish student from the SSMU Board of Directors simply because she was planning on participating on a Hillel Montreal trip to Israel.

McGill’s administration later sided with the Jewish student, Jordyn Wright, saying 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.”