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Universities and pandemic enforcement prompting Jewish outrage and activism

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A Quebec news network advertised a potential Covid infection threat because of "8,000 Jews in 48 hours at the border" but the union claim was 100% false. (Photo: @mitchgarber)

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Montreal

A French language Quebec broadcasting network amplified a modern blood libel against Jews with a headline repeating fake news from a union official who alleged that “8000 Jews” had crossed the Quebec border on March 24 and 25, endangering the province. 

In an interview last Friday with LCN, Jean-Pierre Fortin of the Customs and Immigration Union claimed, “There is talk of at least two hours of waiting at the customs of Lacolle and mainly caused by the Jewish Passover” and lamented that a lack of follow-up procedures by health officials would permit the visitors from the United States to avoid mandatory quarantine rules. Fortin, who is president of the union, further claimed Health Canada officials “have a very clear directive to let everyone go.”

TVA News advertised the interview with an onscreen banner that read “8,000 Jews in 48 hours at the border”. (LCN – Le Canal Nouvelles – is a 24-hour headline news channel owned by Groupe TVA, a division of Québecor.)

The claim was quickly debunked by Canadian Border Services Agency as abundantly false, reporting the total number of people crossing into Quebec in the previous week was 7557 through all ports of entry (not just Lacolle), and of those approximately 93% were exempt from quarantine as essential workers.

In response, Max Lieberman, vice-president of the Quebec Council of Hasidic Jews, told the Montreal Gazette, “Mr. Fortin should be ashamed of himself for talking about one community. There are no 8,000 Jews from Outremont who came in yesterday night.” He also linked Fortin to allegations of the harassment of religious Jews crossing into Quebec by border agents:

Now, I understand the profiling we have experienced for years at the Lacolle border. I understand where the tone gets set — from the top. I can assure you, anyone passing the border was doing so legally, and will have to respect the quarantine.”

Remarkably, as of press time only one national media outlet had picked up on the controversy.

CTV News reported that “Premier François Legault says he’s worried about all gatherings that could take place in the coming days, for both Easter and Passover”, but that Legault did not directly address or repudiate Fortin’s false claims about a Hasidic Jewish surge into the province.

Fortin’s smear was the latest in a series of controversies affecting the Jewish community in Montreal.

For over a year, City Council failed to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism despite over 3000 communications to Mayor Valerie Plante urging her to lead the city in that direction. The civic opposition leader, Lionel Perez, had brought a motion forward in January 2020 but Plante instead insisted the motion be sent back to a committee for review, claiming that she was “absolutely not” dismissing the concept but defining antisemitism was “far from a black and white issue.”

Perez, a Sephardic Jewish lawyer, instead withdrew the motion and assailed Plante stating, “I think it’s ludicrous to think that our commission will be able to review the work of an international body that has incredible standing and experts.”

“The mayor of Montreal did not show the political will. She sent the wrong signal to the Montreal Jewish community and it’s a lost opportunity to fight against all forms of hate,” he was quoted as saying in the Gazette.

Meanwhile throughout the highly restrictive pandemic lockdowns and now overnight curfews, Hasidic congregations have repeatedly encountered public health order enforcement issues, quarantines and court appeals to restore religious liberties.

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In addition, recently news teams from Rebel News documenting SPVM police actions in dealing with the Orthodox and general community have been illegally detained and ticketed, despite media outlets being exempt from lockdowns and curfews.

There have been at least two incidents of police harassment of the news teams where references to “media Juif (Jewish media )” and “C’est tu un Juif? (“Is that a Jew?”) were filmed. The outlet is owned by  a Jewish lawyer from Alberta, Ezra Levant.

On at least two occasions, Montreal police have openly questioned if news reporters they have wrongfully interfered with as they documented pandemic enforcement are “Jew media” or Jewish. (Video: Rebel News Twitter)

University of Toronto

Thirty-four major synagogues and Jewish community organizations sponsored a Zoom Town Hall last week to discuss “Ongoing Concerns of Antisemitism at the University of Toronto”Moderated by B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn, faculty and students explained that U of T officials have for years neglected to deal with complaints about antisemitism and a hostile environment at all three campus sites.

One such example was an attempt by the Graduate Students Union in November 2019 to undermine a motion to support Hillel in the distribution of kosher food for needy students on campus, “as a result of Hillel being ‘pro-Israel’.”  Panelist Howard Tenenbaum said that incident “laid bare their true objectives, which were generally hidden behind support of BDS.”

U of T graduate student Chaim Katz believed the Kosher Forward campaign of Hillel “brought a lot of us together, but it was a symptom of an underlying condition.” 

He asserted that “there was a commitment from the Graduate Student Union to do antisemitism training – they have completely delayed and ignored doing antisemitism training.” Katz complained that mandatory student fees had forced Jewish grad students to underwrite BDS committee activities on the campus. He said his survey found there was a “toxic environment” for Jewish graduate students who are looking to earn degrees, not engage in geopolitical debate about the Middle East.

Former Scarborough campus student Tyler Samuels told of a kippah-wearing student in a Tim Hortons line being called “a dirty Jew – that was the level of antisemitism I saw and I heard during my time there.” Director of Jewish Student Life Yardena Rosenblum concurred, saying that “on Scarborough campus pretty much any Jewish student has an experience like this.” 

Awful stories of harassment, vile remarks and antisemitic actions by faculty, student groups and individuals at the University of Toronto were discussed at an online Town Hall. (Screencap: YouTube)

As a member of the faculty association, Prof. Louis Florence had approached his cohorts to consider recommending the University adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism. A meeting ensued where 20 anti-IHRA speakers were recruited yet “hundreds of Jewish faculty … who had no knowledge of this meeting and no opportunity to participate and express their support for the IHRA definition… For me, sadly, it’s just clear that the faculty association which should be an ally will not act to support the Jewish community – faculty, students, administrative staff and so on, in the larger U of T community.”

In light of the University ignoring a 30 page B’nai Brith report filed last year detailing antisemitic incidents, the panel called on the entire Jewish community to seek recourse by contacting the University’s administration and demand the University begin enforcing its own by-laws and policies to protect Jewish students on campus, and that the University adopt the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism.

In an unrelated matter involving the U of T, on March 30 B’nai Brith welcomed an Independent Review by the Honourable Thomas A. Cromwell concluding that the decision to forgo hiring Dr. Valentina Azarova was not based on outside pressure or influence by a prominent Jewish donor, tax court Judge David Spiro.

Azarova was one of 140 candidates for director of the human rights program last summer. Cromwell determined that her uncertain immigration status had resulted in the hiring committee turning away and towards other candidates. ““As far as I can tell, this is a situation in which advanced negotiations were abruptly halted, not a situation in which an accepted offer was rescinded… my conclusion is that (Spiro) simply shared the view that the appointment would be controversial with the Jewish community and cause reputational harm to the University.” Mostyn did express disappointment that Cromwell did not assess Azerova’s suitability for the position.

“We maintain that Dr. Azarova would have been an entirely unsuitable appointment. The director of an international human rights program at a law faculty should not be exclusively and relentlessly advocating on one side of a complex controversy. Her appointment would have alienated Jewish law students and professors, or anyone who in any way supported Israel, and contributed to a discriminatory and unsafe environment at the law school. The problematic academic record and activism of Dr. Azarova needed to be considered by the faculty.”

University of Ottawa

In a scene that seems to have formed the playbook for a similar attempted stunt at the University of Manitoba, the University of Ottawa faculty union executive passed a resolution to reject the IHRA definition without any consultation with the members.  The Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa (APUO) cited “academic freedom” – but a group of professors  is fighting back and has sent a letter disputing the view of the IHRA protocol to the executive.

In their letter, the professors say that the definition is being dangerously misinterpreted by bad actors who use the shield of “academic freedom” to preserve their ability to cloak their antisemitism as legitimate political opinion about Israel. They state that adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism can help foster tolerance towards the Jewish students they teach.

One of the signatories is Professor Jan Grabowski. A highly regarded historian of Jewish-Polish relations and the Holocaust, he has been subjected to a defamation lawsuit in Poland against his Holocaust research, but the APUO has taken no action to support him.

Jewish students tell Canadian campuses to back IHRA   

(JNS) More than 140 Jewish students have signed an open letter calling on Canadian post-secondary institutions to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. It would “help administrators better identify and meaningfully combat” anti-Semitism on campus, reads the letter, listing incidents at the University of Toronto, McGill University and Queen’s University. 

Student signatories to the letter hail from across the country, with 25-plus academic institutions represented, including the University of New Brunswick, Concordia University, the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia and Wilfrid Laurier University. It was co-written by Tiphaera Ziner-Cohen, a University of Windsor law student, along with UBC student Sagiv Fadid, University of Ottawa law student Ysabella Hazan and others.

“We started this letter so victims of anti-Semitism on campus know they are not alone,” said Ziner-Cohen. “University administrators continue to avoid incidents of anti-Semitism on campus because they clearly do not have the tools to respond. By adopting the IHRA definition, they would be able to both identify and condemn anti-Jewish bigotry wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.”

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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