IJV Canada Salutes the Victories of Student-led Encampments Across Canada

It has now been a month since the first student-led encampment in solidarity with Palestine was established on the lower field of McGill University in Montréal. During that time dozens of similar encampments have flourished right across Canada. 

The mere fact that students and their allies have been able to sustain camps for the past month is a victory in itself and shows that the movement in solidarity of Palestinian liberation in Canada is stronger than ever. Student encampments are also winning material gains on the ground right across Canada and IJV salutes and seeks to underscore these historic milestones. 

In Montréal, l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), has become the first Canadian post-secondary institution to take a strong stance against the ongoing genocide in Gaza and has put out a statement denouncing the ongoing scholasticide perpetrated by Israel against Palestinian students, university professionals and scholars. 

UQAM has also become the first Canadian university to make all future agreements–at the time of writing UQAM currently has none–with Israeli institutions conditional to the respect by these institutions of the basic principles of international humanitarian law and non-discrimination especially on the basis of race and gender. Given the complicity of all Israeli post-secondary institutions in the ongoing oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people–as documented by Israeli scholars such as Ilan Pappe and Maya Wind–in taking such a stance UQAM has become de facto the first Canadian university to apply on an institutional level an academic boycott of Israeli institutions. The last step in this process to enshrine academic boycott of Israeli institutions that are in violation of international law is a vote of the academic council on June 4th. The students have agreed to dismantle the camp on the condition that the academic council confirms these historic gains.  

Elsewhere in Kingston, Ontario the students at Queen’s University moved to dismantle their encampment after having garnered significant assurances from the university administration that they would be moving towards divesting from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation.

A similar move was made by students at McMaster’s University in Hamilton, Ontario where the administration acquiesced to a number of the encampments demands notably the institution of a framework for inter-university exchanges that will ensure all institutions that McMaster has agreements that respect international law and human-rights–similar to the gains made by students at UQAM. The courageous students at McMaster were also able to ensure that their university disclose and ultimately divest from companies that profit directly or indirectly from the oppression of the Palestinian people and dispossession of their land. 

In Oshawa the students at the Ontario Tech University were successful in guaranteeing that their administration put in place a working group that will ensure that none of the university’s investments are in breach of international law and thus aid in any material way continued Israeli ethnic cleansing. 

Both UQAM and Ontario Tech University have also promised to set up scholarship funds of up to 100k for Palestinian students. Thanks to the pressure from students McMaster University will be setting up a 200k fund for Palestinian scholars and students. 

IJV has been supporting the student encampments in a multitude of ways, from IJV student activists taking lead organizing roles within the encampments to leading material and legal support to the student activists. While University administrations at McGill and UofT have decided recourse to injunctions to silence the students IJV has seeked to intervene to refute false allegations of antisemitism and make sure that the voices of anti-zionist jewish students are heard. We will continue to support the students for as long as it takes. 

These universities have taken courageous stances because of the mobilization of their student bodies. In this crucial moment examples such as those emanating from Montréal, Kingston and Oshawa show a way forward for university administrators across the county: negotiate in good faith with your students and divest from genocide. To echo the motto put forward by Queen’s University Apartheid Divest (QUAD) it is time for universities to divest from death and invest in life.  

The recourse to the courts to try to silence the legitimate demands of the students and the brutal intervention of police forces in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver are not the way forward. IJV calls on all university administrations across Canada to respect the fundamental values at the basis of academic freedom, to denounce the systematic destruction of  Palestine’s post-secondary education system by Israel and the murder of Palestinian students, university professionals and scholars.