University of Toronto
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The University of Toronto (U of T) has announced that it will not be adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, contrary to many Canadian provinces, municipalities and universities.

The decision was made despite longstanding allegations of antisemitism at the university by Jewish students, faculty and staff.

U of T President Meric Gertler wrote about the decision in an op-ed last week in The Globe and Mail, in which he admitted that “antisemitism is a pernicious and despicable form of racism – a growing concern in Canada and elsewhere” and that “sadly, university campuses are not immune.” But he added that the school had instead chosen to accept the conclusions of “a working group of university colleagues with specialized expertise to examine the question of antisemitism in our midst and to recommend appropriate responses.”

“We have accepted their recommendations and have trained our equity staff to address antisemitism, including it in our anti-racism training, education and outreach. We have also developed measures to address social exclusion, harassment, micro-aggressions and bullying directed at Jewish members of our community,” Gertler said.

He stated that the working group had recommended against adopting the IHRA definition. “Adopting a definition would mean, in effect, having the university take a position on issues that are properly debated by its researchers,” he wrote.

"The working group concluded that the IHRA’s definition is both insufficiently responsive to many of the most troubling instances of antisemitism in the university context and in tension with the university as a place where difficult and controversial questions are addressed.”

He cited “freedom of expression” and “academic freedom” as individual rights that he alleged would be in jeopardy if the definition was adopted.

“Protecting these freedoms is essential to our university’s mandate and mission of discovery, research and education, which can only thrive in an environment of free expression and critical inquiry. The remedy for dealing with controversial speech is more speech, not less,” he said.

In December, a paper in a Canadian medical journal by Ayelet Kuper, who was appointed by U of T’s Faculty of Medicine as a senior advisor on antisemitism, slammed the medical school for dangerous levels of antisemitism targeting Jewish students, faculty and staff.

The paper followed a statement from B’nai Brith Canada in April that slammed a “flawed” report by the university’s antisemitism working group (AWG) on combating antisemitism.

B’nai Brith said it was “highly disappointed” with the report detailing measures the school plans to institute in response to longstanding issues of antisemitism on its campus.

The release of the report came after years of pressure by Jewish students, faculty and organizations, including B’nai Brith.

“Clearly, the situation is grave and needs to be addressed immediately,” B’nai Brith said. “The AWG Final Report has left the university’s Jewish students and faculty members, as well as Canada’s Jewish community, without any assurance they are welcome and safe on campus.”

In response, B’nai Brith released a “highly detailed and critical analysis” of the AWG Final Report outlining “serious flaws” that the advocacy organization found in the AWG’s methodology.

Their analysis found that “the AWG Final Report refuses to at all address or acknowledge any of the grievous antisemitic incidents that have transpired at the University of Toronto since 2015, and which forced B’nai Brith Canada to issue its own respective report in 2020.”