York U faculty, students hold walkout in protest of staff suspension over Indigo vandalism

Click to play video: 'York U walkout in protest of staff suspensions over Indigo vandalism'
York U walkout in protest of staff suspensions over Indigo vandalism
A walkout was held at York University, calling the recent suspension of some staff unjustifiable. Shallima Maharaj reports. – Nov 28, 2023

Students, staff and faculty rallied Tuesday afternoon demanding York University reverse its decision to suspend three people charged in connection with the vandalism of an Indigo bookstore in downtown Toronto earlier this month.

The rally, which took place at Vari Hall Rotunda, was organized by York University faculty with the assistance of staff and students. It was a show of support for the university employees who were suspended after police executed search warrants and made numerous arrests in an investigation into “hate-motivated mischief.”

On Nov. 10, a Toronto Indigo store was vandalized with red paint and had posters plastered on its window, claiming the Jewish founder of the company is “funding genocide.”

The incident came amid tensions surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle East.

Toronto police said a group of suspects had glued posters to the doors and windows of the store, located in the Bay and Bloor streets area, and then poured red paint on the windows and sidewalk.

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In total, 11 people have been charged with mischief over $5,000 and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, according to police. All of the accused individuals have court appearances scheduled in January.

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According to rally organizers, following the Indigo incident, York University suspended three faculty members and staff, who were arrested.

“Similar charges were laid against eight others. No evidence has been provided that justifies any of these charges. And yet, the university has issued these ‘non-disciplinary’, paid suspensions, arguing that they are doing so for ‘community safety’ knowing that such suspensions will interrupt student learning, teaching, create fear and damage the reputations of those accused,” organizers said.

The university confirmed to Global News in a statement that its community members named by the Toronto police were placed on non-disciplinary leave.

“York has adopted this approach out of concern for the safety of our community including the individuals charged by the police,” the statement said.

During the rally, teachers and students in attendance whom Global News spoke with demanded the charged employees be reinstated.

“We’re really hoping the university will reconsider its position and reinstate those that were suspended immediately,” said Steven Tufts, a York University faculty member.

Tufts said students are “quite concerned” and many were in attendance on Tuesday.

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“They have concerns that if this could happen to someone with power in the university, what could happen to them?”

Carlota McAllister, a York University faculty member, said she’s “shocked that in a space like this where knowledge and academic freedom are supposed to be what we’re here for, we’ve seen repeatedly a desire to attack academic freedom and to attack people who are presenting their views on this conflict.”

The university said it was “acting in the best interests of student learning and in keeping with our stated values, including our commitment to free speech and open dialogue in peaceful ways that do not violate the law, university policies, or codes of conduct.”

“This is a difficult situation for all concerned,” it said.

The university said it’s considering the implications of these matters and arrangements have been made to ensure the continuity of courses and student learning.

Click to play video: 'York U walkout in protest of staff suspensions over Indigo vandalism'
York U walkout in protest of staff suspensions over Indigo vandalism

— with files from Shallima Maharaj and Ryan Rocca.


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