Anti-Israel protesters at McGill University
Anti-Israel protesters at McGill UniversityREUTERS/Peter McCabe

Quebec Premier Francois Legault on Thursday called on the police to dismantle a pro-Palestinian Arab protest encampment that was set up on the lower field of McGill University's downtown campus in Montreal, The Canadian Press reported.

His comments follow calls by McGill earlier this week for police to remove the dozens of tents that have been pitched on the field since Saturday in protest of the war in Gaza.

Legault told reporters in Quebec City on Thursday that he expects police to heed the university's call and dismantle the encampment.

“I will still let the police decide when and how they do that, but the camps must be dismantled,” he said, adding that the encampment was “illegal” and that “the law must be respected.”

“People can show their position during protests. That’s legal. But they cannot have camps on the grounds of a university,” Legault said.

Meanwhile, Montreal police spokesman Jean-Pierre Brabant said the force is "still evaluating" the situation at McGill.

He added that so far, the encampment has been peaceful and that it is not in the interests of the police or the city to immediately intervene.

The protesters are demanding that McGill, as well as nearby Concordia University, cut financial ties with companies they say are profiting from the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. They also want the university to cut all ties with certain Israeli institutions.

Such anti-Israel protest encampments have been seen in campuses across the US, and some of them have been cleared by local police.

Canada has seen an increase in incidents of antisemitism, particularly in Montreal and Toronto, since the Hamas attack against Israel on October 7.

In Montreal, a firebomb was thrown against the door of a Jewish community center in late November.

At the beginning of that month, Congregation Beth Tikvah in Dollard-Des Ormeaux was hit by firebombs.

Several days later, two Jewish schools in the city were hit with gunshots. Another Jewish school was riddled with bullets three days after that.

In December, anti-Israel activists disrupted a meeting of the Agglomeration Council of Montreal – an institution responsible for urban planning, adopting bylaws, and other city affairs.

The activists used the question period to target Jack Edery, the representative of Jeremy Levi, the Mayor of Hampstead, who was absent. Both are Jewish.