McGill University students reject BDS motion in online vote

The Arts Building at McGill University in Montreal (Wikimedia Commons)

The Arts Building at McGill University in Montreal (Wikimedia Commons)

MONTREAL (JTA) – Students at Montreal’s McGill University failed to ratify a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) motion against Israel.

In online voting last week by undergraduates, the motion was rejected 2,819-2,119 (57 per cent to 43 per cent), with 440 abstentions. It had passed at an assembly of the university’s student society on Feb. 22 by a vote of 512-357, and was seen as a blow by pro-Israel students.

“The BDS movement, which among other things calls for universities to cut ties with Israeli universities, flies in the face of the tolerance and respect we cherish as values fundamental to a university,” McGill’s principal and vice-chancellor, Suzanne Fortier, said in a statement. “It proposed actions that are contrary to the principles of academic freedom, equity, inclusiveness, and the exchange of views and ideas in responsible open discourse.”

Fortier said McGill, which has maintained silence on the issue, could not react to the BDS issue until the online vote deadline passed “out of respect for the student governance process.”

Pro-BDS forces at McGill have tried and failed three times over the past 18 months to pass a BDS motion.

After the student assembly passed the motion last week, some pro-Israel students said they encountered open hostility and even anti-Semitism on social media, while some previous donors to McGill vowed to stop giving.

On the same day the motion was passed by the student government, Parliament passed a motion formally condemning BDS by a vote of 229-51. It calls on the Canadian government to “condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home, and abroad.”

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