By Greg Bird*
The national council of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) with representatives from all associations across the country unanimously voted on November 26 to oppose the IHRA definition.
CAUT is the national voice for academic staff representing 72,000 teachers, librarians, researchers, general staff and other academic professionals at some 125 universities and colleges across the country.
Our case has now been made abundantly clear: scholars are opposed to the IHRA definition. Period.
This is truly a watershed moment in our movement, here in Canada and internationally. It cannot be understated what a precedent we've just set. This was indeed a collective achievement and a testament to the strength of solidarity.
In particular, we are grateful to the Association of Academic Staff of the University of Alberta (AASUA) and the Syndicat général des professeurs et professeures de l’Université de Montréal (SGPUM) who led this campaign in the CAUT council, and to everyone who cast a vote on November 26.
Finally, thank you to the Independent Jewish Voices, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, Palestinian-Canadian Academics and Artists Network, Jewish Faculty Network, Faculty for Palestine, and every other allied organization.
We are a formidable movement.
Press Releases on the CAUT motion:
CJPME Statement: https://www.cjpme.org/pr_2021_11_26_caut_ihra
PCAAN Statement: https://www.cjpme.org/pr_2021_11_26_pcaan_caut
Unfortunately, this achievement will not mark the end of the IHRA. The pro-IHRA forces seem even more determined now to harass, defame, threaten, and intimidate at histrionic levels.
Yet another racialized faculty member (a Dean this time) has been targeted this week at the Ontario College of Art & Design.
There is a clear pattern here - it is almost always a BIR (Black, Indigenous, Racialized) faculty member, often a woman, who is targeted.
Surely, there are more cases in the works, and there will likely be a backlash against the CAUT motion.
For those working on drafting statements, organizing within your association/union/provincial confederation, or addressing an IHRA-related harassment case, here are our updated highlights.
#NoIHRA Academic Campaign Highlights
· So far, 32 faculty associations and academic unions in Canada have passed motions against the IHRA definition.
· On November 26, 2021, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) national council voted unanimously to oppose the IHRA definition. “CAUT supports the academic freedom of its members and recognizes the need to safeguard the rights of scholars to critique all states, including the state of Israel, without fear of outside political influence, cuts to funding, censorship, harassment, threats, and intimidation.” CAUT is the national voice for academic staff representing 72,000 teachers, librarians, researchers, general staff and other academic professionals at some 125 universities and colleges across the country.
· On October 28, 2020, OCUFA’s Board of Directors, with representatives from over 30 Faculty Associations, unanimously voted against the IHRA definition. “The working definition, with its list of illustrative examples, conflates legitimate criticism of the state of the State of Israel with antisemitism and may compromise academic freedom at Ontario’s universities by promoting censorship on campus and beyond” (OCUFA President Rahul Sapra). Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations (OCUFA) represents 17,000 professors and academic librarians in 30 faculty associations across Ontario.
· On June 4, 2021, around 300 delegates at La Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec’s annual convention unanimously adopted the ARC Motion. FNEEQ-CSN represents over 35,000 union members in 46 CEGEPs, 41 private institutions & 12 universities.
· 122 leading Palestinian and Arab academics, journalists and intellectuals have criticized the IHRA definition.
· 170+ prominent Jewish scholars from across Canada have released a historic statement criticizing the IHRA definition: https://jewishfaculty.ca/.
· 650+ Canadian academics have signed the Independent Jewish Voices Open Letter opposing the IHRA definition.
· The lead drafter of the IHRA definition has warned of the serious impacts to academic freedom if universities adopt it.
· There is no consensus regarding this definition – an alternative definition of antisemitism written by 200 of the world’s preeminent Jewish and Holocaust studies scholars criticizes the IHRA definition (“Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism”).
· There are now dozens of instances of the weaponization of the IHRA definition to censor speech on Israel-Palestine, all of which pertain to progressive, anti-racist speech on Israel-Palestine (despite the real threats of antisemitism from white supremacists).
National & Provincial Confederations Opposed to the IHRA Definition:
3. Canadian Union of Public Employees of Ontario (CUPE Ontario)
32 faculty associations and academic unions across the country have passed motions against the IHRA Definition:
7. CUPE 1281 (Post-secondary Student, Staff, & Faculty Organizations Employees)
28. CUPE 3902 (Contract Academic Workers, University of Toronto)
+ Many other faculty associations and academic unions across the country are currently working on passing a motion against the IHRA Definition.
The IHRA definition poses a serious threat to academic freedom and intersectional anti-racist and decolonial initiatives across educational institutions.
If governments and universities adopt the definition, there will be consequences for scholarship in Canada, including research funding cuts, outside political influence, censorship, harassment, defamation, and intimidation.
The IHRA deﬁnition misconstrues the term to include a broad range of criticism of the State of Israel, particularly targeting decolonial and anti-racist critiques of the policies, structures, and practices of the Israeli state.
Together we must stop the IHRA definition from being used not only to censor critical and engaged scholarship but also to undermine anti-racist and decolonization campaigns in our colleges and universities.
Summary by ARC national coordinating committee member Mark Ayyash:
National ARC Coordinating Committee Members
Mark Ayyash, Associate Professor of Sociology, Mount Royal University
Greg Bird, Associate Professor of Sociology, Wilfrid Laurier University
Larry Haiven, Professor Emeritus, Saint Mary’s University
Sheryl Nestel, Independent Scholar (Independent Jewish Voices)
Jasmin Zine, Professor of Sociology and the Muslim Studies Option, Wilfrid Laurier University
Pierre Beaudet, professeur en développement international, Université du Québec en Outaouais
Dyala Hamzah, professeure agrégée d’histoire, Université de Montréal
Michelle Hartman, professeure titulaire de littérature arabe, Université McGill
Diane Lamoureux, professeure émérite de science politique, Université Laval
Máire Noonan, chargée de cours en linguistique, Université de Montréal
Norma Rantisi, professeure titulaire d’urbanisme et de géographie, Université Concordia
Vincent Romani, professeur agrégé de science politique, UQÀM
*Greg Bird is Associate Professor of Sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario.