CAMPUS WATCH: New anti-Israel encampments at U of T, U Vic, tensions rise at McGill
CAMPUS WATCH: New anti-Israel encampments at U of T, U Vic, tensions rise at McGill

More radical anti-Israel encampments have been set up on Canadian university campuses, including at the University of Toronto and the University of Victoria.

Meanwhile, members of Montreal’s Jewish community and their allies held a counter-protest in defence of Israel and against antisemitism at McGill on Thursday.

There are also growing calls for McGill’s anti-Israel encampment to be shut down by police.

At U of T, student protesters breached a fence that closed off a large field and set up an encampment. Like at other encampments, protesters were seen wearing both masks and keffiyehs. Signs with genocidal slogans were also seen at the U of T encampment.

The encampment is inspired by the ones of other Canadian universities, as well as those seen at U.S. Ivy League colleges like Columbia. Students taking part in these encampments want their schools to “divest” from the Jewish state.

The U of T administration had previously warned students against setting up an encampment, noting that university grounds are private property.

However, there now appears to be a slight shift in tone now that students have defied orders. The university told students taking part in the encampment that, for now, they will not be removed. The university did, however, warn against joining the encampment or using hateful speech.

“Our preference is to start with dialogue and we’ve been in touch with the protesters since this morning,” said the university. They however added that “those who contravene university policy or the law risk the consequences set out in various laws and policies such as the Code of Student Conduct.”

Activists taking part in the encampment meanwhile blasted the U of T administration, claiming that the university is colonial and on stolen Indigenous land.

“U of T would rather threaten involving police than address our calls for divestment from companies funding a genocide, a stance that reveals the colonial core of its character,” wrote U of T Occupy for Palestine on X (formerly Twitter) “(The) administration says we are protesting on private property, a claim we reject entirely. We are protesting on stolen land.”

At the University of Victoria in B.C., students set up a similar encampment and are inviting non-students to join them.

“After months of our protests and advocacy work being ignored by U Vic administration, we will continue to stand our ground and the encampment will remain indefinitely until the university agrees to our demands and divests from genocide,” organizers said in a statement to the media.

One of the signs seen at the U Vic encampment read “from the river to the Salish sea,” suggesting that protesters want to see the destruction of Canada, in addition to the destruction of Israel.

The University of Victoria said in a statement that it expects “all activities on campus to stay within the parameters of university policies and the law” and that “erecting tents, temporary structures and overnight encampments are prohibited by university policy.”

At UBC, meanwhile, the encampment there has doubled in size. Student protesters have also earned an endorsement from the university’s Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice.

In a statement, the gender studies institute said that fighting for Palestine was a “social justice” issue.

“War, genocide, and the funding networks supporting settler colonial violence are inherently social justice issues; they are core concerns in our classes and in our commitments to practice social justice and end settler colonialism,” the institute said.

The anti-Israel encampment at McGill University was subject to a counter-protest Thursday from members of Montreal’s Jewish community and their allies.

Counter-protesters flew Israeli, Canadian and Quebec flags.

“Right now there is a Jewish awakening happening all over the world, and McGill’s campus is no exception,” said a woman at the counter-protest. “The only genocidal acts that were committed were committed on Oct. 7 against Israeli civilians” another woman told Noovo Info.

Individuals in the anti-Israel encampment meanwhile referred to the pro-Israel counter-protesters as “pro-genocide.”

One man was also seen holding a sign that read, “On Oct. 7, Israel killed its own people & covered it up to justify genocide.”

Another sign on the pro-Palestinian side called for agitation and escalation.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault also said Thursday that it is time for the police to take down the McGill encampment, calling it illegal.

“Everybody in Quebec has to respect laws, and right now these encampments are illegal,” Leault said. “We have to respect the law. And I want to make sure that the police officers ensure the laws are respected.”

“We’re all worried about what’s happening in Gaza,” Legault added. “People can show their (position) in demonstrations, these are allowed. These are legal. But they cannot have encampments on a university site.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meanwhile said Canadians “have to trust” universities and police when it comes to the encampments.

An anti-Israel encampment also remains at the University of Ottawa. True North visited the encampment on Thursday afternoon.

Anti-Israel students occupying University of Ottawa’s campus. Elie Cantin-Nantel, True North
Anti-Israel students occupying University of Ottawa’s campus. Elie Cantin-Nantel, True North

According to The Fulcrum, Ottawa’s student paper, the encampment currently has 50 tents and organizers say approximately 120 students stayed overnight.

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