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B’nai Brith Canada said it was concerned about a Canadian politician’s anti-Israel activism, especially his participation in a recent “divisive mass truancy event” at a high school.

According to B’nai Brith, federal member of parliament Chandra Arya, who represents a riding in Ontariok, praised high school students using a megaphone after they left their school without permission on May 13 to attend an anti-Israel demonstration.

The protest “lamented the establishment of Israel and portrayed Jewish self-determination as a disaster while bemoaning Israel’s resilience in the face of adversity following the 1948 United Nations recognition of its independence,” B’nai Brith explained.

“There are significant ethical and safety issues with an MP addressing an event that encourages children to walk out of their class,” said Marvin Rotrand, B’nai Brith’s National Director of its League for Human Rights. “A video obtained by B’nai Brith shows Arya praising the organizers who encouraged students as young as 13 from several schools across Ottawa to skip classes to take part in demonstrations calling for the obliteration of Israel.”

Thought only a small group of students attended the demonstration, B’nai Brith noted that Arya addressed the students in attendance and “praised the organizers as part of a new generation of leaders.”

The advocacy group also pointed out that Arya – who it described as “one of Parliament’s most notorious Israel-bashers” – said that several of the event’s organizers were past and present members of the staff of his parliamentary office.

B’nai Brith alerted the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) about Arya’s involvement in the May 13 demonstration.

B’nai Brith has since learned the OCDSB intends to impose disciplinary measures on students who walked out and is investigating infiltration of its schools by groups using social media to disrupt classes.

“Chandra Arya seems to spend much of his working hours showing up at anti-Israel events,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said. “Our 2021 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents registered a record 75 incidents of violence targeting Canadian Jews, much of it fueled by the vile sort of anti-Zionism we saw at this demonstration. Arya is a member of the majority caucus and should know better than to see children used to undermine Canada’s support of Israel and understand this will only stroke the flames of division between students of different backgrounds.”

B’nai Brith added that “there have been suggestions that Arya has been involved in other, similar protests.”

In response, the OCDSB issued a statement: “The OCDSB reminds students engaged in activism that the right to freedom of expression comes with the obligation to respect other people’s opinions that are different from their own. Typically, when students organize walk-outs or other actions, they move off school property. If a student demonstration or walk-out occurs, classes will continue to operate. As always our teachers strive to create spaces in classrooms where all students feel safe. Students advocating for a cause at school or in a place that may impact on the school climate are subject to our policies and School District Code of Conduct.”

The OCDSB also said that if students feel pressured into walking out of class they can speak “to a trusted adult in the school so that we can work with them to ensure their needs are addressed. This includes providing assurances of safety within the building, identifying a location for them to access well-being supports, and connection with family, as requested.”