Israel-Hamas conflict: B.C. human rights watchdog backs ‘peaceful encampments’ at universities

Click to play video: 'Pro-Palestinian encampment emerges at UBC'
Pro-Palestinian encampment emerges at UBC
A Pro-Palestinian encampment is beginning to grow on the grounds of UBC's Point Grey Campus. As Grace Ke reports, similar demonstrations have seen violent clashes, triggering the university to keep a close eye on the camp – Apr 29, 2024

British Columbia’s human rights commissioner is calling on universities and colleges to protect the rights of students and staff taking part in “peaceful encampments,” saying she’s worried about people who “speak up in solidarity with Gaza” being penalized.

Kasari Govender said in a statement Monday that campus communities have a right to “peaceful and lawful assembly and free expression.”

Click to play video: 'Gaza protests: McGill Pro-Palestinian demonstrations spread to UBC, uOttawa'
Gaza protests: McGill Pro-Palestinian demonstrations spread to UBC, uOttawa

She said there’s no place in B.C. for antisemitism, anti-Palestinian racism, Islamophobia or public incitement and, as long as those limits aren’t breached, universities and colleges should protect the rights of protesters.

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“How decision-makers react to student protests now will mark the strength of our democracy and our human rights protections long into the future,” she said.

Pro-Palestinian protest camps sprang up at several campuses across Canada last week, including at the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria. Neither school immediately provided responses to Govender’s statement.

Click to play video: 'University protests: McGill, Uof T pro-Palestinian protesters vow to stay until divestment demands met'
University protests: McGill, Uof T pro-Palestinian protesters vow to stay until divestment demands met

Some protest organizers have said they want universities to support the Palestinian cause by divesting from companies linked to Israel, joining a “global academic boycott” of Israeli schools and publicly condemning Israeli actions in Gaza.

Pressure has been building on protesters to end their encampments elsewhere in Canada.

Montreal’s McGill University said late Monday that it was seeking a “timely and peaceful” end to the protest there.

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters Monday that he is “not in favour” of the encampments in his province, saying “they need to move.”


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