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TDSB Rejects Biased Investigation By Anti-Israel Activist, Refuses To Censure Jewish Trustee

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Representing the most Jewish ward in the Toronto school division, Alexandra Lulka describes herself as a “proud Israel advocate, @cjpac fellow alumna.” When she stood against equity advisor Javier Davila promoting Palestinian terrorist organization propaganda, the anti-Israel crowd tried – and failed - to leverage the TDSB Code of Conduct to stop her. (Photo: Facebook)

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By a 10-7 vote with 4 absences and one procedural abstention, the besieged Toronto District School Board narrowly rejected a controversial finding that a Jewish trustee breached their Code of Conduct, in a pressure-packed Zoom session on Wednesday night. As a result, the board averted having to subsequently decide on an accompanying recommendation to censure Ward 5 Trustee Alexandra Lulka for calling out pro-terrorist material circulated by a TDSB employee in May during the Gaza war against Israel.

Integrity Commissioner Suzanne Craig had concluded that Lulka had breached the Code of Conduct by failing to balance her tweet renouncing “material that justifies suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism.” Craig claimed that Lulka “could have carefully crafted a statement to call out the potentially harmful materials while appropriately characterizing other materials as important, positive pro-Palestinian discourse”.

“While I accept that the Respondent was profoundly hurt by reading some of the materials in the May Mailouts which triggered deep trauma of her lived experience as a Jewish woman with family directly impacted by the tragic events in May 2021 and while I accept that the Respondent did not intend for her Twitter Statement to perpetuate Islamophobic tropes, in accordance with the Independent Investigator’s findings, the effect of her words, not the intent of Respondent must be considered in an analysis of whether a statement is discriminatory.” (page 32)

As Toronto Sun columnist Lorrie Goldstein described the Orwellian logic: “A Jewish trustee should be censured for calling out anti-Semitism and the promotion of terrorism in the distribution of educational materials, because it might offend anti-Semites and terrorist sympathizers.”

In a bizarre exhibition of woke political theatrics that demonstrated why public education in Toronto is in a death spiral, Craig – who called herself an “arms-length fact-finder”- desperately tried to split hairs to justify the report faulting Lulka while swerving around factual evidence that hand-picked investigator Morgan Sim has shown blatant anti-Israel bias on social media. In one instance, Sim called Hamas and the PFLP – terror groups banned in Canada – “Palestinian resistance”.

Much of the argument presented to the Board was based on a twisted semantic interpretation that the terrorist-sourced links circulated by student equity program advisor Javier Davila was not antisemitic per se as it did not mention animosity towards Jews, only towards Israel and Zionism.

In his solicitation to other employees last May, Davila claimed “(Palestinians) have been legitimately resisting racism, colonization and genocide since the 1920s to the present day by any means necessary: general strikes, demonstrations, armed struggle, and martyrdom operations (called ‘suicide bombing’ by Zionists).”

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Provided a five minute opportunity to state her defense before trustees debated the breach finding and recommendation for censure, Lulka came out swinging.

Stating “I will never stop calling out antisemitism and that’s what I did”, she dared the Board to take the side of a skewed investigation into a malicious complaint. “This complaint attempts to speak over Jewish voices” and was a deliberate ploy “to silence me.”

“Like many Jews in Toronto I have been a target,” Lulka asserted, while promising to “name and shame” those who promote violent antisemitism. She called the material Davila distributed as “repulsive” and that attempts to legitimize the terrorist PFLP and Hamas “should be a red line for all of us.”

“The TDSB has been losing the trust of the Jewish community,” Lulka said, “(and) a vote to censure will be saying a lot more about this board then it will about me.” 

After a 7 month ordeal, she said “I am glad this has finally come out in the open” adding “This board must do better.” Other trustees echoed her stance.

“Independent investigator” Morgan Sim is a Toronto lawyer who determined a Jewish school trustee broke the rules by unfairly tweeting about an employee circulating material extolling terrorist groups and “martyrdom operations” that kill innocent Jews. (Photo: Twitter)

Ward 8 Trustee Shelley Laskin quizzed Craig about her choice of Sim: “Did you ask them if they could be fair and impartial” when it came to matters of the Middle East? “I rely on the ethics of these lawyers” was the reply. Laskin honed in on Sim jeopardizing the perception of fairness of the complaint investigation “by their tweets… there is now a perception that a trustee enraged by antisemitism is being silenced.” 

“Not everything has 2 sides,” Laskin insisted. “The code of conduct was not breached and does not deserve censure.”

Ward 2 Trustee Dan Maclean was miffed that the two issues before the board were not being debated separately: “I believe a breach occurred, I am far less certain a censure is appropriate in this case.” Rachel Chernos Lin of Ward 11 struggled with a report she called “complex”, saying “I do not believe that there has been a breach of the code.”

Apologizing for her voice quivering, Ward 15 Trustee Jennifer Story started crying while discussing the need for students to feel safe. “I don’t see in the text of the tweet and the breach that is being suggested here… I’ve heard some antisemitic tropes being reflected in the conversation we’re having this evening… I will not be voting in favour of any censure.”

After first getting involved in politics by working for the late federal NDP leader Jack Layton, Jennifer Story was elected to the TDSB in 2014. To the consternation of the left-wing, anti-Israel crowd counting on her to support the report, Story was actually aghast at the proposal to censure Alexandra Lulka and told fellow trustees, “I’ve heard some antisemitic tropes being reflected in the conversation we’re having this evening.” (Screenshot: TDSB)

In a similar vein, Ward 13 Trustee James Li declared, “Lulka did nothing wrong in standing up for the community she represents… But we need to take a reflection upon ourselves on what we have done (by re-instating Davila without consequence)… I do not ever want to have this conversation again.”

The next trustee to speak, Chris Tonks of Ward 6 reminded the meeting “the tough social issues of the day come to this board… and we take it very seriously… I’m going to disagree with the investigator, I’m not prepared to ascribe the intent, the impact , the words that were spoken by Trustee Lulka… I’m just going to go on my gut tonight, I don’t think this amounts to a Code breach.”

Other trustees spouted bizarre progressive-left talking points that there was somehow, a bigger picture to consider even if some sort of antisemitism was afoot within the division.

“I feel for my friends in the Jewish community,” Ward 19 Trustee Zakir Patel said. “This talks about Code of Conduct, what we can do, what we can not do… she went to social media. If we don’t vote yes today on Code of Conduct, we are opening a very dangerous zone on social media,” which he claimed would require the Board to stop suspension hearings of students for social media misdeeds.

“We are going into that danger zone to open up everything,” Patel warned, as he urged his fellow councillors to vote yes “in order to protect the integrity of the Board.”

Seeing a chance to climb onto a soapbox, Trustee Yalini Rajakulasingam of Ward 21 spoke about “white supremacy”, “settler privilege”, “racialized folks” and “education equity” and stumbled over pronouncing the word ‘antisemitism’ as though she had never read the word out loud before. She didn’t touch on any actual aspects of the report and in the end, was “not present” for the vote.

While the TDSB meeting proceeded, controversial employee Javier Davila couldn’t stop himself from trying to shift the focus on Twitter from his distributing pro-terrorist, anti-Zionist tracts, to promoting the Palestinian cause. (Image: Twitter)

With debate closed, Laskin moved for a vote to reject the report, calling the proposal to censure Lulka “a slippery slope… we have freedom of speech.” 

If a precedent was set, she said, every trustee will be open to code violation complaints “several times a year… How can we say somebody breached the code, for what she… did … not… say?”

Lulka concluded her defence by pointing out the report “confirms everything I said was true but still wanted to censure me.” She cited her Charter rights to free speech, and characterized the recommendation as a “straightjacket” on trustees.

Maclean presented an amendment to vote only on the Code breach which Laskin supported, and the end result was a 3 vote margin to send the report to the trash bin and save the TDSB from eternal embarrassment.

But the embarrassment caused by Board Chair Alexander Brown at the beginning of the session will not be relegated to a trash bin quite so quickly. In fact, he may be facing a complaint of his own to the Integrity Commissioner.

Online observers of the TDSB meeting that was deciding whether to censure Trustee Alexandra Lulka for calling out antisemitic tracts from Palestinian terror groups, were stunned to see Board chair Alexander Brown adorned by a keffiyeh. After a mysteriously timed break in the proceedings, he returned with his hair combed and the keffiyeh replaced by a sweater vest. (Screenshot: Ron East)

Facing an avalanche of emails before the vote, Brown had a standard reply to concerned ratepayers and Jewish organizations: “Hate in all its forms, including antisemitism, has no place at the Toronto District School Board.”

In his largely self-congratulatory opening remarks at the meeting detailing the Board’s delivery of Covid-affected programming, Brown said he was talking with Toronto city councillors to arrange sharing data to “eliminate hate, racism, and discrimination”.  “I’m optimistic about it” he said, proclaiming senior staff had a meeting scheduled with Mayor John Tory in the new year.

While making this statement, Brown was wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh.

The scarf is “a symbol for showing solidarity with the Palestinian sufferings from the Israeli colonialism” according to one source, and “is internationally most associated with the Palestinian quest for self-determination” according to the Guardian. For Israelis it was originally associated with Yasser Arafat and the murderous exploits of the bomb-planting, bus-attacking, plane-highjacking PLO and is seen by Jews in this era as an offensive symbol of Jew-hate.

Twitter lit up about Brown’s not-so-subtle virtue signal and despite changing his attire, some Toronto residents indicated they will be pursuing a formal complaint that he tried to prejudice the vote.

In fact, Brown voted to accept the report and to find a Jewish trustee – who spoke up against Islamic Antisemitism – in breach of the Code of Conduct. Brown (Ward 12) joined Maclean, Patel, Vice-Chair Christopher Mammoliti of Ward 4 (who told the meeting maintaining a “safe space” was “a priority”), Harpreet Gill of Ward 1, David Smith of Ward 19, and Manna Wong representing Ward 20.

“TDSB trustees have listened to reason and made the only justifiable decision tonight,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “There was never any basis for censuring Trustee Lulka, and the ‘investigation’ into her actions appears to have been nothing but a contrived witch-hunt.”

On Thursday in the House of Commons, Thornhill MP Melissa Lantsman unleashed a fiery rebuke of the entire affair: 

“The threat of censuring Trustee Lulka not only shows that the TDSB doesn’t consider the lived experiences of Jews who have faced dangerous consequences of  vile hate to be valid – it shows that they don’t care… They voted no. It was 10-7. It should have been 17-0. This should have never have been considered, and it’s far from over in the largest taxpayer-funded school board in this country…” 

See Lanstman’s statement here:

 

Marty Gold is the Editor-in -Chief of TheJ.ca. Known for investigative reporting, he has specialized in covering municipal and provincial politics, and a wide range of sports and entertainment, in newspapers, magazines, online, and on his first love, radio. His business and consulting experience includes live events and sales, workplace safety, documentary productions, PR, and telecommunications in Vancouver, Los Angeles and across Canada, and as a contestant on CBC-TV Dragons Den.

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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.

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