Debate: Anti-Semitism Remains A Problem On Canadian Campuses

September 2011

What follows is an excerpt from the final report of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism, released July 7.

Though there are no reliable statistics in terms of the absolute number of anti-Semitic incidents on campuses across Canada, there are reliable indications that such incidents are on the rise. The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada’s 2009 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents reported that cases of anti-Semitism on Canadian university campuses had risen by 80.2% from 2008 to 2009. The report notes that this statistic is “even more alarming given that the number of incidents has increased almost four‑fold since 2006.”

The report also noted the relationship on campuses, as in Canadian society more generally, of the level of anti-Semitic incidents to events in the Middle East. Specifically, the level of incidents intensified significantly during the war in Gaza in January 2009.

The following represents a sample of some of the incidents that have occurred in connection with Canadian academic life in recent years:

In March 2010, a York University student was charged by police with running a virulently anti-Semitic website ( He blames his troubles with the law on “Jewish Kikes.”

In September 2009, in Guelph, Ontario, anti-Semitic graffiti was scrawled on the door of a university campus residence where Jewish students lived.

In February 2009, it was reported that at York University, Jewish students who were involved with a petition to impeach student government were “barricaded” in the Jewish student lounge by a group of protesters. Police were called and the students had to be escorted out of the lounge to safety. On the way out, York University Student Daniel Ferman, who was involved in the incident, testified that he was called a “f–king Jew” and was told to “Die, Jew.”

In January 2009, the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees brought forward a proposal to ban Israeli academics from teaching at Ontario Universities. In response to an appeal from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, Sid Ryan, president of CUPE Ontario [initially] stated “we are ready to say Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general.

In January 2009, university and college professors and employees in Quebec called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

In January 2009, Jewish students in Vancouver, B.C., were chased and assaulted on campus.

At Queen’s University, Hillel was forced to remove its “response wall,” which was meant to be a space for people to share their feelings after walking through a Holocaust education display, due to the overwhelming number of anti-Semitic remarks, including remarks denying the Holocaust.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2009, the York University Free Press published cartoons featuring Israelis dressed as Nazis shooting Palestinians into a mass grave labelled “Gaza.” Another cartoon shows a dead Palestinian in a concentration camp wearing a prisoner’s uniform and a keffiyeh.

In November 2008, a Jewish student’s vehicle was defaced with several swastikas and the phrase “dirty Jew” written across the windows.

In April 2008, Natan Sharansky, a refusenik with the civil rights movement in Russia and Cabinet minister in Israel came to speak at York University and was shouted down and prevented from speaking.

On March 10, 2008, immediately following a terrorist attack on an Israeli yeshiva on March 10, 2008, the Excalibur at York University published an article that stated, “It’s no wonder why Yeshivat Merkaz Harav school was attacked,” and went on to justify the attack based on the fact that the school had a curriculum that combined Talmudic studies with military service.

In February 2008, “Death to Jews” was reportedly shouted repeatedly at an anti‑Israel rally held on the McMaster University campus.

In 2007, Jewish students reported to Queen’s

University Hillel that their sociology professor had accused Canadian Jewish Organizations (such as the Canadian Jewish Congress) of a conspiracy to manipulate Canadian foreign policy. The professor later apologized.

In March 2004, the Queen’s University Palestinian Human Rights association distributed literature portraying Jews with big noses and carrying large sacks of money. Controversy over the issue made it into the Queen’s Journal, where the president of the club denied the anti-Semitic nature of the cartoon on the basis that “Palestinians are Semites too.”

The visiting Israeli consul‑general was prevented by protesters from speaking at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia in 2004.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of recent incidents, and does not even include all incidents that were discussed during the inquiry. Nevertheless, in addition to demonstrating the variety and severity of incidents on Canadian campuses, these incidents highlight a number of troubling issues.