The Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario stands in solidarity with the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) at the University of Toronto – Scarborough Campus. The SCSU and elected student executives have faced multiple threats and inaccurate statements that undermine student democracy and autonomy. Most recently, a statement was released by the administration of the University of Toronto regarding the decisions undertaken by their membership.
The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) is a students’ union and a member local of the Canadian Federation of Students. It is an independent student-led organization that follows direction and guidance from its membership through democratic decision making processes on decisions such as political stances, directions and decisions of the students’ union. Over the course of the last year, the SCSU adopted a motion that endorses the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign that was called for by Palestinian Civil Society in 2005 to end the Israeli occupation of all Palestinian & Arab lands, allow refugees the right of return to their homes, lift the siege off of the Gaza strip, and grant equal civil rights to the Palestinian citizens of Israel. This campaign is underpinned by International Law and Human Rights as articulated by United Nations Resolution 194, and United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 2334, amongst other resolutions.
After the resolution’s policy was created and adopted by the membership at the 2021 Annual General Meeting (AGM), the administration of the University of Toronto released a statement condemning the motions that have been passed and adopted by the SCSU, and further claimed that they were inconsistent with their core values of freedom of speech and inclusion. These accusations are false. The policy that was adopted does not present a “political test” on the membership nor does it single-out any nation-state — rather it takes a stance on an international human rights issue, which all institutions and organizations are able to do. Additionally, the SCSU had consulted with student groups and stakeholders on-campus to ensure that the BDS policy implementation is in line with the values of inclusion, transparency, and freedom of speech. The will of the membership to pursue an endorsement of this campaign is independent of the policies of the University of Toronto, and as stated in the policy, it does not seek to discriminate against any students over any basis. The policy is in line with the mandate of the SCSU and the Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario, whereby it does not discriminate against any members on the basis of religion, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, culture, or heritage. The Federation also rejects the administration’s sentiment that a focus on the nation-state of Israel and its policies or actions is “deeply disturbing”. Students routinely take stances and positions on nation-states based on the international events, and an exemption here would only prove an exceptional status that transgresses standards applied to all nation-states.
The Federation supports the decisions undertaken by the membership of the SCSU and all respective committees and persons that have overseen their operations and procedures. We strongly urge the university administration to not interfere in the autonomy of the students’ union or the political decisions undertaken by their members or attempt to influence or reverse the decisions undertaken by students. We further urge the university to engage with this policy and the BDS campaign in good-faith and to refrain from making any sweeping remarks or implications about the campaign and its derived policy. We call on the administration to protect the elected student executives from targeting and harassment that is aimed at them.
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario is the oldest and largest student organization in Ontario, representing over 350,000 college and university students in every region of the province.