Toronto

Mississauga teacher suspended following school board probe into appearance at pro-Palestinian rally

A Greater Toronto Area elementary school teacher has been suspended following a school board investigation after she was criticized for appearing in and speaking at what advocacy groups have called an anti-Israel rally.

Nadia Shoufani appears in video praising 2 men linked to what Canada considers a terror group

Nadia Shoufani, a Mississauga, Ont. teacher, has been suspended from her job just over a month after appearing at a pro-Palestinian rally in Toronto. (YouTube)

A Greater Toronto Area elementary school teacher has been suspended following a school board investigation after she was criticized for appearing in and speaking at what advocacy groups have called an anti-Israel rally.

Nadia Shoufani, a teacher at St. Catherine of Siena school in Mississauga, Ont., has been suspended with pay pending further investigation by the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, the board said in a statement.

The school board said concerns raised by the public about Shoufani's professional conduct have been referred to the Ontario College of Teachers for review.

The school board confirmed in July it had launched an investigation into Shoufani's appearance at the rally. But the board did not confirm in its statement, obtained by CBC News on Wednesday, that Shoufani was suspended for her actions. 

"We do not comment on the details of our investigations," the school board said in its statement.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA), which represents Shoufani, said the teacher wasn't suspended for her conduct, but instead for appearing to not comply with the investigation. However, OECTA said the teacher has provided all of the information the board has asked for and met its timelines.

Shoufani spoke at the International Al-Quds Day rally on July 2 behind Queen's Park in Toronto.

In her remarks, which were captured on video, Shoufani called Ghassan Kanafani, a Palestinian writer killed in 1972, a "martyr," and criticized the detention of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, a Lebanese militant imprisoned in France for killing two U.S. and Israeli officials.

Both men are linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group Public Safety Canada lists as a terrorist entity.

"We have the right to fight back. We have the right to resist," Shoufani told the crowd at one point during her speech.

Two community groups, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and B'nai Brith Canada, and several individuals flagged Shoufani's remarks to the school board days after the speech.

Amanda Hohmann, the national director of B'nai Brith Canada's league for human rights, praised the board for suspending the teacher this week.

"It is heartening to see the school board treating this matter seriously," Hohmann said in a statement.

B'nai Brith, which had been monitoring the rally, said at the time of the initial complaint that it believes Shoufani is publicly supporting violence and terrorism and that it's inappropriate for a teacher to espouse those views.

Teacher complying with school board investigation, association says

Ann Hawkins, OECTA's president, said her organization will support Shoufani throughout the investigation.

In a statement, Hawkins said Shoufani wasn't suspended for her conduct – either personal or professional – but instead due to a perceived lack of compliance with the board's investigation.

But the board: "failed in their duty to verify receipt of the information before prematurely moving to discipline Ms. Shoufani," Hawkins said.

"I can assure you that she has complied with the board's requests and provided all information within the prescribed timeframes," she said. 

CBC News has reached out to Shoufani for comment, but has not been able to reach her. The Canadian Press also couldn't reach the teacher.