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Canadian Universities’ (Lack Of) Response to the October 7 th Terrorist Attacks

Joshua Schecter

On October 7, 2023, Shabbat, Simchat Torah, and precisely 50 years after the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, Hamas launched a brutal and horrific terrorist attack against Israel. They murdered over 1200 Israeli civilians, maimed or injured over 4500, and abducted over 200 to the Gaza Strip, all in the most brutal manner possible. They raped girls and women, beheaded and cooked babies, and tortured families. These Hamas monsters gleefully videotaped themselves committing these horrific crimes and uploaded them onto the internet for the world to see, presumably to humiliate Israel.

Despite the barbarity of these attacks, Palestinians and their supporters supported Hamas in the streets of Gaza and around the world. A pro-Palestinian protest outside the Sydney Opera House on October 9 quickly devolved into chants of “gas the Jews,” burning the Israeli flag, and firing flares. In London, England, a massive pro-Palestinian rally featured chants of “Jihad! Jihad! Jihad!” in response to a speaker asking, “What is the solution to liberate people from the concentration camp called Palestine?”.

 

Canada, too, has not been free of this hate. On October 10, two Jewish women in Vancouver were reportedly threatened with murder and sexual assault after attending a vigil for the Israeli lives lost in the terrorist attacks. In Calgary, pro-Palestinian protesters chanted, “We are the men of Mohammed Deif” in Arabic. In Toronto, protesters replaced this chant with “Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Mohammed will return.”

 

Following Hamas’ terrorist attack, such rhetoric has seeped into university campuses throughout the country, placing Jewish students at risk. At Toronto’s York University, three student unions wrote a joint “statement of solidarity with Palestine” in which they justified and supported Hamas’ actions as “a strong act of resistance” against the “settler-colonial apartheid state of so-called Israel” and called for the “liberation of Palestine’. 

 

At Queen’s University, mezuzot were torn from the walls of student dorms. A security guard at McGill University was videotaped taking down posters of kidnapped Israeli civilians from campus. Similarly, a guard at Montreal’s Concordia University was filmed smiling for a selfie at an on-campus pro-Palestinian protest. 

 

These incidents only scratch the surface of the unacceptable responses to this blatant barbarity that had shocked most decent-minded people worldwide. 

 

Suffice it to say that Hamas is a terrorist organization whose atrocities know no bounds, and celebrating their actions is reprehensible and has no place in Canada. 

 

Yet, eight of the top 17 English-speaking universities in Canada1 (47%) have failed to explicitly condemn Hamas’ actions as terrorism, let alone denounce Hamas supporters on their campuses. Of the remainder (of the 17) who did condemn Hamas’ barbarism, two used the term “terrorist violence” without explicitly calling Hamas out by name. Additionally, many universities have refrained from taking a stance, instead electing to offer “subject matter experts” to talk to interested students or simply reiterating the available academic and mental health resources on campus.

 

Notably, these responses are inconsistent with previous appalling world events. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Canadian universities were quick to issue explicit condemnations. The University of British Columbia responded, “These attacks are unwarranted, unprovoked, and unacceptable. We join Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan in deploring this illegal and unjust war.” 

 

This sentiment and passion were missing from their statement on Hamas’ terrorist attacks on October 7.

 

Why then were these two international incidents treated differently? It is difficult not to draw deeply troubling conclusions.

 

Universities are one of the pillars of Canadian society as they educate and train each generation to be the leaders, role models, and good citizens of tomorrow. If they are to fulfill this vital role and their own stated goals, they must condemn all terrorism equally. They must stand up for the safety of their Jewish and Israeli students. They must take a moral stance on a clear good-versus-evil issue. It is unconscionable that they haven’t done so already.

 

Here is a brief outline of some of our Canadian universities’ responses to the horrendous attack against Israeli citizens, even before Israel entered Gaza to destroy Hamas’s military machinery and infrastructure.

 

University Statement Condemned Hamas
University of Toronto
  • Condemned “terrorist violence” without mentioning Hamas
  • “condolences to all those suffering in Israel and Palestine and to everyone who has been personally impacted.” 
  • “calls for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, grounded in dialogue.”
Yes. Not by name
University of British Columbia “We are deeply saddened and concerned by the recent violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the tragic loss of lives across the region. The escalation of this longstanding conflict and developing events is intensifying distress and concern among members of our university community.” No
McGill University
  • “Horrific attack by Hamas on Israel”
  • “Worried about the safety of loved ones in Israel and in Gaza.”
  • Revoked SPHR’s permission to use the university’s name
Yes
McMaster University
  • “appalling atrocities committed during the Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel”
  • “… there is no room for hate of any kind at McMaster.”
Yes
University of Alberta “you do not need to address the conflict nor the histories of Israel and Palestine to show care, compassion, and consideration for students.” No
University of Montreal
University of Waterloo “The University of Waterloo condemns the reprehensible terrorist attack on Israeli civilians this weekend and is saddened this has resulted in the outbreak of war in the Middle East.” Yes
University of Ottawa “The escalation of violence in the Middle East since Hamas’ attack in Israel affects us all, but some people more than others. Members of our Israeli and Palestinian communities are directly affected and especially need our support at this time.” No
University of Calgary
  • “We condemn these terrorist actions.”
  • “Innocents on each side of the Gaza barrier are paying an unimaginable toll, and we are saddened by the loss of life and the families impacted.”
Yes
Western University Not really
Universite Laval
Queen’s University “terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7” Yes
Simon Fraser University “We condemn all acts of violence, discrimination and hate, as we work together to ensure safe and secure campuses for everyone.” Not really
Dalhousie University Subject matter experts No
University of Manitoba
  • violent conflict in Israel and Gaza
  • “condemning terrorist violence and the kidnapping of civilians.”
Yes. Not by name
University of Saskatchewan “This outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas is extremely difficult for many members of our university community, particularly those students, faculty members, and staff who are from any of the countries and states in or near the conflict or who have family and friends there. We extend our deepest sympathies to all those who are affected at this most difficult time.” No
University of Victoria “horror at the terrorist attacks in Israel last week and the shocking violence unfolding in Gaza” Yes. Condemned “escalating violence” as well.
York University “York denounces the weekend attacks against civilians in Israel and is deeply troubled by the ongoing violence.” Yes
University of Guelph “We are deeply concerned by last weekend’s attacks on Israel by Hamas and the developing war in the region.” So-so
Universite du Quebec no

 

Joshua Schecter is a CIJR student intern and an undergraduate aerospace engineering student at Concordia University

  1. Best universities in Canada 2022 – University Rankings (timeshighereducation.com)
  2. a23Oct13.pdf (uwo.ca) page 110

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