The students’ unions at York University – the York Federation of Students, York Graduate Students’ Union and Glendon College Student Union – issued a statement on October 12, in solidarity with the Palestinian people and defended their right to resist. Subsequently, they have come under fire from the University administration; the bourgeois media; the Ontario Minister of Universities, Colleges, and Training; the Canadian Minister of Justice; and other federal and provincial elected officials.
The Young Communist League (YCL) has issued a statement expressing its full solidarity with the York student unions and condemning the statements of Jill Dunlop, Anthony Housefather, Michelle Rempel Garner and other elected officials.
This attack is first and foremost part of the broader attack on the Palestine solidarity movement; the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel (BDS) campaign; and the broader anti-imperialist peace movement. For years the government and the monopolies they represent have been attempting to crush the Palestinian solidarity movement in Canada to support what they see as an ally against anti-imperialist movements in the Middle East, similar to Canadian military and diplomatic support for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Recently, students’ unions at McGill and the University of Toronto were attacked for democratically passing BDS motions. In Ontario, Doug Ford and the Tories tried to ban Al-Quds Day events in 2018. They also passed an Order-in-Council adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of anti-Jewish racism which wrongly equates criticisms of Israel and Zionism with antisemitism. The federal Liberals in 2016 passed a motion in Parliament to officially condemn the BDS campaign, and in 2019 the Liberals adopted the IHRA definition.
However, government officials have been silent when the Israeli “Defence” Forces illegally set up recruitment events at universities across the country. In fact, the Canadian Embassy in Israel has even hosted events honouring and celebrating the “contributions” those with Canadian passports have made to the occupation of Palestine. When Canadian physician Tarek Loubani was shot by an IDF sniper in Gaza while clearly identified as actively providing medical care, the Canadian government pressed the International Criminal Court (ICC) to not investigate Israel for crimes against humanity. In a 2020 letter to the ICC, the Canadian government stated, “Canada’s longstanding position is that it does not recognize a Palestinian state and therefore does not recognize the accession of such a state to international treaties, including the Rome Statute. In the absence of a Palestinian state, it is Canada’s view that the Court does not have jurisdiction in this matter.”
The position of the Canadian state is in contravention with numerous United Nations General Assembly resolutions and with the position of the vast majority of member states. The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3236 clearly recognizes “that the Palestinian people are entitled to self-determination,” and affirms “the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine, including: the right to self-determination without external interference; the right to national independence and sovereignty; […] the right of the Palestinian people to regain its rights by all means in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
The York Federation of Students is the largest undergraduate student union in Canada. The students at York University have democratically elected their representatives and the joint statement by the three students’ unions is well within their mandate to represent and organize students at their university, and in line with the democratic decisions of their annual general meetings. This attack on the York student unions is consistent with a rising trend of university administrations interfering with student democracy.
Students’ unions are autonomous and independent from the institution, and this attack on the YFS’s autonomy is reminiscent of the Student Choice Initiative that the Ford government attempted to implement in 2019, but which was defeated in court. The affairs of students’ unions, both political and internal, are not to be interfered with by the administration, nor by the government.
Students have the right to their voice and to collectively make decisions. The YCL-LJC says hands off student democracy.
Around the world we are seeing attacks on the Palestinian movement, from the white phosphorus bombing of civilian targets including hospitals in Gaza by the IDF to the banning of Palestinian flags and demonstrations in many countries. In response, the YCL reiterates its support for the Palestinian people’s right of return, their right to self-determination, and their right to resist occupation.
“In the face of Zionist aggression, we must give strength to the solidarity movement here in Canada, in particular the BDS movement. We must identify and isolate the Canadian capitalist monopolies that are profiteering from the death and destruction in Palestine.
“Palestine will live, Palestine will win!”
[Photo: IJV Canada]
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