BDS motion fails at McGill with help from MP alum

Montreal university students defeat divestment vote after Liberal Party leader MP Justin Trudeau campaigns against

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

Canada's Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau is critical of BDS motions at alma mater McGill University. (photo credit: Jean-Marc Carisse/Wikimedia Commons)
Canada's Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau is critical of BDS motions at alma mater McGill University. (photo credit: Jean-Marc Carisse/Wikimedia Commons)

A March 15 boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) vote brought to Canada’s McGill University Student Society found unexpectedly high-profile opposition this weekend in the form of McGill alum MP Justin Trudeau.

Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Liberal Party leader Trudeau turned to Twitter on March 13 and posted, “The BDS movement, like Israeli Apartheid Week, has no place on Canadian campuses. As a @McGillU alum, I’m disappointed. #EnoughIsEnough.”

Whether Trudeau influenced Sunday’s vote, which defeated the McGill Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights’ motion calling for a divestment from companies in business with Israel, it is clear from the ensuing conversation on his Twitter feed that the son of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau finds his stance hardly universally supported by his constituents.

Interestingly, Trudeau’s tweet comes days after facing criticism from Canada’s The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs over his attack on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government for inflaming prejudice about Muslims in its new anti-terror legislation.

Canadians “should all shudder to hear the same rhetoric that led to a ‘none is too many’ immigration policy toward Jews in the ’30s and ’40s being used to raise fears against Muslims today,” Trudeau said.

This is the second time this academic year that McGill students were asked to address a BDS motion. In the October general assembly, the Students’ Society of McGill University tabled the motion “indefinitely,” according to an oped signed by a group of McGill students in The Montreal Gazette.

The motion calls for the student society to, among other things, lobby McGill’s Board of Governors to “campaign to mobilize the McGill population on the responsibility of the McGill endowment to divest and refrain from investing in companies.”

Specific companies are mentioned, including Volvo, Oshkosh, Toyota, Mitsubishi and RE/MAX. The motion claims they “pose social injury by contributing to the continuation and profitability of the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.”

Other statements on the motion include a campaign to “Educate members of the society about its positions,” including all campus emails on the board’s progress in divestment at least once a semester.

According to the students’ oped, “The motion seems to give SPHR [Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights] the right to bombard the entire student body with their one-sided propaganda.”

Following the motion’s defeat, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs published a statement from CIJA Quebec executive member Rabbi Reuben Poupko.

“The McGill students have once again made their position clear. They will not permit a polarizing and obsessive campaign designed to ostracize a group of students to have a place on campus,” said Poupko.

Poupko praised the fact that “many individuals stand with us against this transparent campaign. We witnessed a clear consensus amongst federal politicians across all parties which was expressed by them and their youth representatives on campus.

“As leaders we must continue to stand strong against intimidation. We must do more to ensure that hateful campaigns such as these are not allowed to take root in academic institutions, which have the obligation to provide all students with an atmosphere free of harassment and bullying.”

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