Last week, Minister Jill Dunlop (pictured) made a statement in the Ontario Legislature to publicly “name and shame” those in academia who have been reportedly expressing anti-Semitic opinions and supporting Hamas’ terrorist actions. Photo credit: LinkedIn/Jill Dunlop
What is it about Canadian universities? One outcome of the war in the Middle East is to show how too many of them have become hotbeds of anti-Jewish sentiment.
A National Post headline writer captured it well a few days ago – “the pro-terror rot at the centre of Canadian academia.”
Student unions, various student groups and various professors eagerly declared their support for the terrorist group Hamas.
If anyone had had any doubts about the group’s true colours, they should have been answered by Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel citizens earlier this month – women and children, fathers and mothers, grandparents and young people, just going about their business, brutally killed and in some cases, horribly abused beforehand.
But no, the violence and brutality of the surprise attack on Israel, only seemed to egg on those who are prepared to justify and support the bloodshed in the name of “decolonization” or “land-back,” to use the newest buzzword.
Universities are supposed to be havens for free speech, offering young people the opportunity to learn about the world, to explore controversial issues, to develop different views based on facts and to respect alternative opinions. But somewhere along the line, we have clearly missed the boat.
There is a difference between criticism of Israel and its government and whole-hearted support of those whose agenda is clearly articulated – to drive Israel and its citizens into the sea. But too many university faculty, student leaders and student groups gleefully flooded social and other media channels with what can only be described as knee-jerk anti-Semitism.
This was not intellectual discourse or taking an informed position based on facts. It was plain and simple, hate speech from individuals who clearly have little grasp of history or little support for the principals of free and open democracies.
How this will all turn out is dangerously uncertain. But one thing is clear, university administrations, governments, donors and taxpayers all need to step back and ask, what have we built? Institutions dedicated to informed thought and opinion, schools who can help develop and train future leaders and independent thinkers or incubators for extremist views, based not on independent facts but rather, on ill-informed ideology.
To their credit, many university administrations have tried to take steps to curtail the alarming behaviour, demanding retractions of inflammatory public statements and threatening other administrative sanctions.
They were joined by Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop, who has also clearly had enough. Last week she made a statement in the Ontario Legislature to publicly “name and shame” both individuals and organizations who have been expressing anti-Semitic opinions and openly supporting Hamas’ terrorist actions.
Her statement ensures that the names of those expressing such extremist views and their words become part of Hansard, the official public record of debates in the Legislature. It was a welcome step.
“These individuals thought they could hide behind the ivory tower,” she said. “Well it’s time for them to touch the grass. These are the individuals who teach our students. They hold significant authority over the students they teach. How are our students supposed to feel safe when they have anti-Semites teaching them?”
Some of the individuals so identified, objected to being singled out, according to Toronto Sun columnist, Brian Lilley. This is about our rights to free speech, they complained, forgetting that the Minister too has a right to her opinion.
But it is not. To quote the Minister again, “campuses are supposed to encourage debate and free speech,” she said. “They should never be a place that incites and justifies violence and hate speech. That has been a line that has been repeatedly crossed.”
It is time we fixed it.
Janet Ecker is a former Ontario Finance Minister, Minister of Education, Minister of Community and Social Services and Government House Leader in the governments of Premier Mike Harris and Premier Ernie Eves. After her political career, she served as the founding CEO of the Toronto Financial Services Alliance, a public-private partnership dedicated to building Toronto region into an international financial centre. She currently sits on a number of corporate and non-profit boards, agencies and advisory committees.
Ms. Ecker received the Order of Canada for her public service contributions and was recognized as one of the “Most Influential People in the World’s Financial Centres” by Financial Centres International. She also received a “Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award” from the Women’s Executive Network and the Richard Ivey School of Business, among other awards. She is also one of the founders of Equal Voice, a national, multi-partisan organization working to elect more women.