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McGill concerned about 'extremely alarming' poster for summer camp at pro-Palestinian encampment

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McGill University says it will increase security near the pro-Palestinian encampment and elsewhere on campus following concerns about a promotional poster for a summer camp that has some questioning what it's really teaching.

"It's to teach about the anti-colonial struggle. It's to teach about history," said Zeyad Abisaab, a member of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) McGill, in an interview.

But the camp and the poster used to promote it — showing at least two armed people reading quotations from Chinese chairman Mao Tse-tung — are being criticized by Jewish human rights group B'nai Brith.

The camp description says it's "transforming [McGill]" into a space "for revolutionary education," centred on programs about "the history of Palestinian resistance," "the ongoing Nakba," "Different fronts of the movement," and "Media after October 7."

The photo is from the 1970s when the Chinese Communist Party supported the Palestinian movement.

Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) McGill posted this image on Instagram to promote an upcoming 'Youth summer program' at McGill University. (Source: @sphrmcgill/Instagram)

On Friday, organizers defended using the image.

"Look, that's a historical image, a historical picture," Abisaab said. "This is an image of, as I said, colonized people studying anti-colonial movement."

McGill issued a statement late Friday afternoon saying the post is "extremely alarming." The university said it has flagged it to "municipal, provincial and federal public safety authorities."

McGill's president and vice-chancellor Deep Saini added: "I want to emphasize that this is only the latest escalation in SPHR's longstanding strategy of intimidation and fear."

B'nai Brith says it is outraged.

"Can you imagine having an acceptable poster showing … perhaps camp counselors holding a submachine gun?" Henry Topas, the Quebec Regional Director for B’nai Brith Canada, told CTV News.

But camp organizers say the courses will be an extension of workshops it has already offered and those counselors will be academics.

"It's scholars, professors, experts on the topic that are teaching at McGill and Concordia," Abisaab said.

For Topas, it's just the latest in what he calls an escalation after the James Administration building was occupied by protesters last week.

"They just keep moving the goalposts. In other words, when they get up to one point and nobody says anything, OK, let's go for a little more. Let's go for a little more," he said.

The camp is set to take place at the lower field and is scheduled to start on Monday.

Public officials react

Some political leaders expressed their condemnation of the poster on social media on Friday.

"Enough is enough, this is hate speech and incitement to hate, pure and simple!" wrote Montreal MP Marc Miller in a post on X. "Freedom of expression and the right to protest have their resonable (sic) limits and they have been reached. De-escalation at McGill has clearly failed. This needs to end!"

Meanwhile, Quebec Higher Education Minister Pascale Déry called it "very disturbing."

"The situation is escalating and it has to stop. Freedom of expression is one thing, but this is provocation, explicit incitement to violence, even indoctrination. I repeat: this camp must be dismantled," she posted on X.

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