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Michael Kennedy - John Carpay

Parliament, not student unions, should vote on boycotting Israel

Students at McGill University will soon vote, once again, on whether the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) should endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which seeks to place an economic boycott on the state of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.  Members of Parliament will soon vote on the same issue.  For Parliament, this is an important international question, entirely within the federal government’s responsibility over foreign policy.  For a student union, it’s juvenile grandstanding. McGill is not alone.  Student unions at York, Ryerson, Concordia and others have all passed motions endorsing BDS, thus diverting student union money and resources towards ideological goals that not everyone agrees with. BDS is not the first issue to be taken up by Canada’s student unions. In recent years, student unions have also endorsed positions on bottled water, abortion, “Silent No More,” Pride, “misandry,” fossil fuels, “No Olympics on Stolen Native Land,” and a not-so-diverse collection of other issues.  Some student unions go even further by placing an outright ban on groups, lectures or events representing alternative views that don’t align with the views of student politicians.  This has made it necessary for two university campus clubs, Speak for the Weak and Students for Life, to sue their respective student unions at the University of Toronto Mississauga and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.  In both cases, the student unions denied club recognition to these student groups because of their pro-life stance on abortion. Successful endorsements enable activists to claim that they represent the entire student body in wanting to boycott Israel, or ban water bottles, or support Pride. They obtain a form of “democratic legitimacy,” in spite of the fact that fewer than twenty percent of students actually vote in student union elections. The result is that a very… Read More