McGill student leader asked to step down for accepting trip to Israel
READ THE UPDATE TO THIS STORY: McGill student won’t have to step down from student society for accepting free trip to Israel
A student leader at McGill University says she's being singled out by the school's student society (SSMU) for accepting an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Jordyn Wright, a second-year science student, sits on the student society's board of directors.
"It's a bit upsetting that I'm being asked to step down. Especially because I'm going in a personal capacity," Wright said. "I'm just trying to further my own knowledge as a student and a global citizen."
Wright says she applied to go on the trip as a way to explore her Jewish faith.
"I really wanted to go and just learn. I mean, Israel is something that's really important to me," she told CTV News. "I wanted to go see it through that new lens of just really understanding what's going on and how can the country do better for everybody who lives there."
The trip is organized by Hillel Montreal, billed as an opportunity for students to meet with journalists, politicians and locals in both Israel and Palestine to better understand the complexities of the region.
However, after a campus newspaper published an article labelling the voyage as "propaganda" offered by a "pro-Israel organization," the student council told Wright she either had to cancel or resign from her position.
"It is designed to influence one's opinion upon return," argued Madeline Wilson, SSMU vice-president of university affairs. "There's an agenda behind that and it's again being offered to somebody in their capacity as a student leader, not out of a qualification they've gained from being a student leader."
Hillel Montreal denies the accusations, telling CTV News, "Our only expectation of participants is that they engage freely and meaningfully with the many narratives and experiences they will encounter."
"It's being planned by a Jewish community group, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it can't still be a neutral and balanced group," Wright insisted. "That accusation, that a Jewish group can't be neutral about Israel is anti-Semitic."
Officials with McGill University responded to the controversy, saying the SSMU's actions contradict the school's values of inclusion, diversity and respect.
"While diversity of opinion is fundamental and should be respected at all times, polarization that reaches a point where it fosters a culture of ostracization, or when our students do not feel respected on our campuses because of their identity, religious and political beliefs, will not be tolerated," argued Fabrice Labeau, deputy provost of student life and learning.