McGill U student body fails to ratify BDS motion in on-line vote

Marcy Oster

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

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

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

The controversial motion, which passed in the university’s student society on Feb. 22 by a vote of 512 to 357, and was seen as a blow by pro-Israel students, could not be ratified after being rejected by an online vote of 2,819 – or 57 percent of voting undergraduate students – to 2,119, or about 43 percent. About 440 students abstained.

“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 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,” she added.

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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 last 18 months to pass a BDS motion.

After one finally passed the student government on Feb. 22, 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.

The motion was passed by the student government the same day the Canadian Parliament passed a motion formally condemning BDS. The Parliament motion passed 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.”

Over the past few years, several Canadian universities have passed pro-BDS motions.

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