By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
A pro-Israel group has received an apology as part of a settlement with the Durham College and UOIT Student Association after being banned from campus activities last year.
In March 2016, the student association denied Hasbara Fellowships Canada’s application to take part in its Social Justice Week.
According to a statement posted the student association’s website, the denial was based on “incorrect information”, namely that the board of the 2015-16 student association had ratified a motion to support a boycott campaign against Israel under the name of ‘BDS’.
However, that motion was never officially ratified.
In response to being barred from campus activities, Hasbara filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario stating they were seeking $50,000 in damages, a formal apology and invitation back to the campus.
Rob Walker, national director for Hasbara’s Canadian branch says the settlement was handled confidentially between the two parties, with the student association posting the following public apology on its website.
“The SA [student association] deeply regrets the decision made to deny Mr. Walker and Hasbara the opportunity to participate in Social Justice Week. The SA sincerely apologizes to Mr. Walker and Hasbara. The SA aims to promote healthy debate on campus and rejects discrimination of any kind, including against Israeli students or community members. We welcome Mr. Walker and Hasbara’s participation at a future multicultural event on campus.”
According to its website, Hasbara Fellowships is a pro-Israel campus activism organizations which works with more than 80 universities across North America.
Its mission statement states, “it brings hundreds of students to Israel every summer and winter, giving them the information and tools to return their campuses as educators about Israel.”
Walker told The Express he and his organization “were satisfied with the way this has been concluded.”
Walker says he can’t comment whether there was malicious intent behind the student association’s actions or it was a simple misunderstanding, but noted, “there has been a major shift in just over a year.”
This is the first time Hasbara has experienced something like this Walker says, but he is ready to move past it.
“We welcomed the statement by the student association welcoming us back and we intend to be involved with students moving forward.”
The student association is now in receivership after an agreement was made earlier this year with Durham College and UOIT to establish separate student associations for both post-secondary institutions.
Receiver Bluetree Advisors II Inc. was given the mandate of completing the affairs of the joint student association and facilitating the creation of the new separate entities.
According to court documents on the student association’s website, a motion was expected before Aug. 1 to complete these actions.