Statement in solidarity with the People’s University for Palestine

On the morning of May 11, the Office of the President of the University of Alberta released a message which highlighted that the police were called to enforce the Trespass To Premises Act on student protesters.

However, the role of the President as highlighted in the Board of Governors Bylaws is to act for the successful operation of the University, development and implementation of a Board-approved strategic plan, advancing and executing policy recommendations, and ensuring adherence to the institution’s approved mandate.

Nothing in the message shows that there was any disruption to the successful operation of the university, and we can see no reason why the police were called to implement the strategic plan, execute policy recommendations, nor ensure adherence to the approved mandate. In fact, we argue that such actions have gone against the strategic plan and the mandate, as academic freedom of expression is a top priority at this university.

Under section 9 of the mandate, the “University administrators, faculty, staff and students contribute regularly to public debate and to government and corporate examination of issues,” as well as makes calls for “experiential learning opportunities based in the community to augment on-campus activities with real-life applications.”

To call the police to break up a camp in which students were engaged in experiential learning on policy development through protest is a clear breach of this policy.

Furthermore, page 16 of the strategic plan makes safety a core commitment of the University of Alberta. We observe with concern Dr. Flanagan’s definition of peace, as it is an extremely unsafe one. In fact, he refers to the attack on the camp by the Edmonton Peace Services as “peaceful dispersion.”

Firstly, pepper bullets and tear gas were used against unarmed and peaceful students. It would be rightfully unacceptable for peaceful protesters to be using pepper bullets and tear gas against the administration to get what they want, and it is equally unacceptable for the office of the president to use such things to get what they want. There can be no definition of “peace” nor “safety” that includes the use of offensive weaponry.

Secondly, considering that the EPS is a police force outside of the University community, and much of Bill’s message is berating the camp for including outsiders to the community (as though this innately makes the campus less safe), Dr. Flanagan’s message is plainly hypocritical; outsiders only make the campus unsafe when such people bring weapons onto the campus, as EPS has done.

Students pay for more than 50 percent of the operations cost at this University and hold representative voting power at the Board of Governors. Consequently, this post-secondary institution equally belongs both economically and politically to the students. The University of Alberta Students’ Union had released a message explicitly calling on the administrators to not use violence against student protestors, but this call was clearly ignored.

This police sweep is more than just an attack against a group of student protesters, but an attack against the democratic rights of students as a whole. If EPS is allowed to use weapons on student protesters to break up Palestine protests, they will use them to break up protests against tuition hikes, or protests against the inaction towards climate disaster; EPS will implement such actions against workers on strike.

In summary, Bill Flanagan and the Office of the President have breached both the Strategic Plan and the Mandate, and by extension, they have abused the authority of the office by using powers beyond what has been granted by the Board of Governors. Whereas the President of the University is held accountable by the Board of Governors, we must therefore call upon all governors to act within the best interests of the University and discipline the President for abuse of authority, up to and including impeachment.

We in particular call upon the leaders of the student and labour unions to stand up for the University community and our right to study, work, organize and protest in true peace, not fake peace created through the barrel of a gun or through toxic gases. We call upon the community to unite in calls to hold abusive administration accountable to their actions in office. Similarly, we join the University community in the call to:

  • Defend the right to protest by giving amnesty to all students and community members that attended the encampment, by halting disciplinary proceedings and the destruction of any surveillance data gathered about the protesters.
  • Disclosure of all financial investments that generate revenue for the University of Alberta, including all investment portfolios.
  • Boycott financial partners, and suppliers which aid financially and materially the ongoing genocide against Palestinian people.
  • Divest into portfolios that do not depend on a war economy and reinvest in portfolios that benefit people and the environment.
  • Call for the Federal government to sanction Israel with a two-way arms embargo until a peace agreement is respected by the occupier state of Israel and provides full civil rights to every Palestinian.

Young Communist League – Edmonton

Communist Party – Alberta

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