FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 25, 2016
On February 22, 2016, the General Assembly of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) voted in favour of a motion to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns on campus. The motion was put forth by the McGill BDS Action Network, a coalition of 19 campus groups, and calls on SSMU to lobby the McGill administration to divest from companies that are complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, as well as support for other BDS campaigns on campus. The vote, receiving a substantial 58% majority of the 883 students present, passed with 512 voting for, 357 voting against and 14 abstentions. The motion has now moved to an online ratification process, giving all SSMU members a chance to participate in the democratic process. Online ratification ends February 27 at 9am Montreal time.
BDS is a non-violent movement initiated by 171 Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005. It calls on the international community to push for divestment and boycott initiatives, as well as demand sanctions against the Israeli government until it complies with international law. The movement has three goals: ending the occupation of all Arab lands conquered in 1967, allowing Palestinian citizens of Israel full equal rights, and allowing the right of return for Palestinians who were expelled or fled their homes during Israel’s establishment, as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. The movement has received support from numerous people, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Angela Davis, Alice Walker, and Roger Waters. Many universities have also passed similar motions to McGill’s including Concordia, McMaster, Stanford, and UCLA, as well as U.S. church organizations like the Presbyterian Church and the United Methodists.
This motion is more than purely symbolic – its ratification would give student union support to BDS campaigns on campus, including campaigns to divest from companies that are complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestine in which McGill has financial holdings. This motion also seeks to highlight the voices of Palestinian students on campus, who have had their identities denied and their history erased. By investing in companies that profit from Palestinian human rights abuses, McGill is also complicit in the alienation of Palestinian students and in the occupation. We acknowledge the concerns that have been raised about anti-Semitism on campus, and recognize that this is a reality for many Jewish students. As an organization that is committed to anti-oppression and is part of an anti-racist movement, we are dedicated to fighting against all forms of discrimination in our communities, as well as ensuring that instances of anti-Semitism are not dismissed or trivialized.
The recent Canadian parliamentary vote condemning BDS has once again shown that we cannot trust our governments to reliably uphold principles of human rights and justice. Just as SSMU divested from South Africa while the Canadian government still supported apartheid, it is up to student activists to pave the way for ensuring human rights for Palestinians in defiance of the interests of the Israeli and Canadian governments. Change does not start at the governmental level, but rather with the people – and in our case, university students. We are proud that the students at the SSMU General Assembly stood on the right side of history, and we will not allow methods of intimidation by those in power to coerce the student body to side with the oppressor.
This motion was endorsed by the following on-campus groups: AMUSE, CKUT, Contours: Voix de femmes en droit, Divest McGill, ECOLE, Feminist Collective of McGill Law, KANATA, Le Délit, McGill Against Austerity, McGill Students for Feminisms, McGill Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, McGill Syrian Students’ Association, Midnight Kitchen, NDP McGill, QPIRG McGill, Queer McGill, The Black Students’ Network, The McGill Daily, The Union for Gender Empowerment, and The Women of Colour Collective of McGill Law. It was also endorsed by Independent Jewish Voices – Canada.