On December 2, 2019 Fabrice Labeau, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) at McGill University in Montreal, issued a statement titled “Ensuring a respectful debate”:
Dear members of the McGill community,
In recent months, we have seen increasing polarized debate among some members of the student community and student associations on political issues, particularly regarding the state of Israel. While our University fully respects freedom of speech, it is also committed to maintaining a respectful environment for all members of our community. We are thus highly disturbed by the vote taken on November 28, 2019, by the SSMU Legislative Council, in relation to some student leaders enrolling in Hillel Montreal’s Face to Face program to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The motion approved by the SSMU Legislative Council purposely singles out an individual member of SSMU. Despite the SSMU Board of Directors previously assessing that enrolling in this program does not constitute a conflict of interest, the Legislative Council has nonetheless decided to overturn this decision by mandating its Board of Directors to start a procedure to remove this individual from the SSMU Board of Directors, should this individual choose to go on the trip.
While diversity of opinion is fundamental and should be respected at all times, polarization that reaches a point where it fosters a culture of ostracization, or when our students do not feel respected on our campuses because of their identity, religious and political beliefs, will not be tolerated.
The decision made by the SSMU Legislative Council is contrary to the University’s values of inclusion, diversity and respect. Furthermore, it appears to diverge from SSMU’s own Constitution and it represents a very serious breach of trust. For that reason, we call upon the SSMU Board of Directors to seriously consider the concerns raised by students and take proper action.
The McGill administration will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds, and take needed measures to ensure that our students feel safe and free of harassment, including holding SSMU accountable to the principles and values of its own Constitution.
I would like to take this opportunity to make it clear that there is absolutely no place for discriminatory behaviour, attitude or discourse that run contrary to our core values and principles. As Deputy Provost, Student Life and Learning, and with a strong mandate from the Principal, I will remain vigilant to ensure that all members of our community feel safe, welcomed and respected on our campuses.