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U of M boss disinvited to Holocaust memorial

Israel Apartheid Week permitted on campus

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Administration Building at University of Manitoba


Administration Building at University of Manitoba Photo Store

Israel Apartheid Week was pretty much ignored locally this year -- until Shaarey Zedek synagogue rebuked University of Manitoba president David Barnard for not banning the event from campus.

The synagogue took the unprecedented step of revoking its invitation to have Barnard speak at a solemn interfaith Holocaust remembrance service last Sunday.

But the synagogue welcomed a senior administrator from the University of Winnipeg to speak Sunday, even though Israel Apartheid Week events took place at the U of W this winter just as they have for many years.

Barnard said he will not grant interviews until he has met with the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, but issued a statement Wednesday in which he said his personal views about IAW notwithstanding, the university had legal advice that banning the events could violate human rights legislation.

Cancelling Barnard's invitation was a private action that was not supposed to be made public, Shaarey Zedek executive director Ian Staniloff said Wednesday.

Staniloff said the U of M Students Union rejected allowing the annual event to be held on space it controls, but Barnard made a decision to allow IAW events to go ahead elsewhere on campus.

"We felt it would be inappropriate for him to be one of our readers at such a solemn event," Staniloff said. "We're really standing up for something we strongly believe in."

Shaarey Zedek subsequently invited UMSU president Al Turnbull to replace Barnard as a reader last Sunday, Staniloff said.

Among the speakers who did appear at the Holocaust remembrance service was Jennifer Rattray, the U of W's associate vice-president for indigenous, government and community affairs.

Staniloff said the U of W had banned IAW events from its campus, but university officials confirmed Wednesday not only is there no ban at the U of W, but Students Against Israeli Apartheid has held at least one event on campus this year.

In a statement, Barnard said Wednesday the U of M had no choice but to allow IAW events to take place on his campus.

The Canada-Palestine Support Network held the events at the U of M.

"I am deeply saddened by the insinuations made about me personally and more importantly about the institution I lead," Barnard said in his statement.

"The decisions made in regard to the IAW activities were independent of any personal views concerning CPSN and its stance. The University of Manitoba enjoys a meaningful and respectful friendship with the Jewish community. This relationship has been built over many years and informs the fabric of our institution."

Barnard emphasized that at no point did the U of M overturn an UMSU decision, nor did it invite the CPSN onto campus. That group asked to rent space, and because it complied with both the law and with university policies, the U of M had no choice.

"In response to concerns raised, the University of Manitoba sought and received legal advice to the effect that not allowing the group to rent space on campus could be a violation of the Manitoba Human Rights Code, therefore putting the university at risk of violating that code," Barnard's statement said.

"The University of Manitoba ensured there were security measures in place and all IAW activities were monitored by the Office of Fair Practice and Legal Affairs and the Office of Risk Management. There were no reported incidents."

The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg issued a statement late Wednesday in which it said the U of M's actions were unfortunate and the federation advised against them. Nevertheless, there is a long and mutually beneficial relationship with both the U of M and with Barnard, and they will meet soon to discuss issues that "could further expand ties between the university and Jewish institutions."

Is revoking David Barnard's invitation to take part in a Holocaust remembrance service an appropriate way to protest the U of M allowing Israel Apartheid Week events on campus? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 1, 2014 A6

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