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Quebec judge's ruling prevents McGill student union from adopting pro-Palestinian policy

People walk past the pro-Palestinian protest encampment on McGill University campus, in Montreal, Monday, May 13, 2024. (Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press) People walk past the pro-Palestinian protest encampment on McGill University campus, in Montreal, Monday, May 13, 2024. (Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press)
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B'nai B'rith is declaring victory after a Quebec judge granted a temporary injunction preventing a student union at McGill University from adopting what the Jewish advocacy group calls an "anti-Israel policy."

The judgment in Superior Court follows another one last November stopping the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) from implementing the results of a referendum held last fall. 

The policy was proposed weeks after the Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7 on southern Israel. It included multiple demands, including "immediately and publicly condemn the genocidal bombing campaigns and siege in Gaza," cutting ties with "complicit" corporations, institutions, and individuals, and "commit to a strong, consistent position in solidarity with Palestinian students, and with the Palestinian struggle against genocide and settler-colonial apartheid."

B'nai B'rith argued it was discriminatory and contrary to the student society's own constitution and bylaws, and the court agreed.

"While the Court recognizes there will continue to be student division and alienation no matter the Policy's fate, these problems will be exacerbated by the call to action that the Policy's ratification and implementation would trigger, one that involves a cascading series of controversial demands," wrote Superior Court Justice Shaun E. Finn in his ruling issued on Wednesday.

The SSMU policy, the judge added, "would strike at the heart of student life by degrading certain students based on their national, ethnic, or religious background."

The policy's wording stated it would remain in force until May 1, 2028, which the judge viewed as problematic because "there appears to be no internal mechanism to rescind the Policy for roughly four years, making it impossible to end an ongoing violation to human dignity throughout the intervening period."

The ruling allows a trial on the merits of the case to proceed. Until that process is concluded, the policy cannot be ratified.

The SSMU did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Hank Topas, B’nai Brith Canada’s Quebec Regional Director, applauded the court's decision, saying that the proposed policy demonized Jewish students.

"We're feeling that the courts, thank God, have done their job. We believe that there has been a fair listening to of the facts in a well-reasoned judgment — a 38-page judgment. The judge went back-and-forth on many of the points that involve this decision," Topas said in an interview with CTV News on Wednesday.

The judge also ruled that the identity of the McGill student who filed the injunction will also stay protected.

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