Canada

Concordia discriminates against Jews: B'nai Brith

B'nai Brith files human rights complaint against Concordia University for not protecting Jewish right of free speech.

B'nai Brith Canada is filing a complaint against Concordia University with the Quebec Human Rights Commission, claiming the university discriminates against Jews.

The University decided last month not to allow former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to speak on campus because of security concerns but reversed its decision on Friday.

Despite the university's reversal, B'nai Brith says Concordia has failed to protect the right of free speech on campus.

"Our position is that security concerns at a university can never trump freedom of speech, it can never trump the guarantee of equality ... We can not let anti-Zionist bullies dictate the Concordia agenda," says David Matas of B'nai Brith.

Matas warns other universities will face the same action if they tolerate what he calls anti-Semitism.

B'nai Brith is an independent organization representing Jews. Its aims include combatting anti-Semitism and promoting Canada-Israel relations.

Jeffrey Boro of the Canadian Jewish Congress says B'nai Brith is going too far.

"If you want to make a great news splash, that's one thing, but if you want to solve the problem, there are better ways to go about it."

Two years ago, Concordia was forced to cancel a speech by Barak's predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, after pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students clashed violently.

Concordia spokesperson Dennis Murphy said Thursday that the school now plans to allow Barak to speak on campus, possibly in May.

RELATED
* Coverage from CBC Montreal

Sylvain Abitbol, head of the Jewish philanthropy group Combined Jewish Appeal, called Concordia's about-face a step in the right direction.

"It's a victory of free speech and a defence of Canadian values," Abitbol said.

Pro-Palestinian student groups have denounced the visit, calling Barak a war criminal.

The university's initial offer to help host Barak off campus was rejected by both Barak and the Jewish student group Hillel, which had extended the invitation to Barak.