Students’ project at Ontario high school investigated as “anti-Semitic”

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The controversial student project at Mississauga school. Photo: CIJA Facebook page

On April 2, 2019 the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) issued the following statement:

“CIJA has learned that students at Stephen Lewis Secondary School in Peel Region have launched a campaign promoting the antisemitic lie that Israelis harvest Palestinian organs and conduct ‘human testing’ of pharmaceuticals on Palestinians. We have credible evidence that this campaign is taking place in the school and on social media, allegedly as part of a class project.

“We are shocked and outraged. If true, this is one of the most serious and vicious examples of antisemitism in a Canadian public school CIJA has seen. CIJA immediately contacted senior Peel District School Board officials seeking answers, demanding the project end immediately, and calling for those responsible to be held accountable. We have also offered to conduct antisemitism training for the school and the board, similar to programs we have run for the Toronto District School Board and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. We will keep community members updated.”

On April 13, 2019 Michael Levitt, Member of Parliament for York Centre, tweeted:

“Absolutely unacceptable that this age old #antisemitic “blood libel” has found new life in a GTA secondary school. Awaiting a substantive response and explanation from @PeelSchools and a plan to ensure this #antisemitism is addressed. @CIJAinfo”

In response Peel District School Board (PDSB) tweeted: “Tweet A – “We have responded to indiv [individual] tweets. At this time, an investigation is ongoing. We are taking concerns seriously & are reviewing the matter guided by our Safe Schools and Equity and Inclusion policies. As this is a matter involving students & staff, we cannot disclose the outcome.”

In another tweet PDSB clarified: “And we are not burying it. It is being reviewed and there will be education around this. At the same time, we must respect privacy legislation and hoping people will understand we cannot share more than we are able to.”

MP Michael Levitt commented: “I appreciate the privacy concerns & understand you [PDSB] are in touch w/ @cija. The “this” in your reply is #Antisemitism. I think an acknowledgment of the issue at hand, even without specifics is important. It is a moment for education but if we cant say it, we cant address it.”

Peel District School Board (PDSB) responded: “We are investigating this as anti-Semitic, and are working to determine where gaps in understanding exist so we can address them through education. At this time, we need to do a fulsome investigation.”

On April 15, 2019 Meir HaLevi Weinstein posted:

Peel Regional School Board response to the Jewish Defence League regarding antisemitism on display at a Peel Regional School.

Good morning Meir,

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us.

We recognize that the poster should have been taken down when concerns were first raised, while we looked into it. For this, we apologize.

We recognize the severity of the hurt and harm that the class project has caused for members of the Jewish community and others inside and outside of Peel Region. Your concerns of anti-Semitism are heard and we commit to a full review of the project, guided by the board’s Safe Schools and Equity and Inclusive Education policies.

We are working to determine where gaps in understanding exist so we can address them through education. Although our investigation continues, and we have more to learn about the project and its goals, we acknowledge that we must seek the support of community experts in our learning. That will happen over the next few days.

Director of Education Peter Joshua has been in touch with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and other community leaders. We are committed to a comprehensive investigation that is focused on repairing hurt and harm, and to restoring positive climates for learning and working for all.


Communications [PDSB]