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Pro-Palestine encampment at McGill is “illegal,” say Déry and Bonnardel

Photo: Valérian Mazataud Le Devoir As McGill grounds were still occupied by activist camps on Tuesday, the University asked the Montreal police to intervene, believing that their efforts to defuse the situation were not sufficient.

Sandrine Vieira and Marie-Michèle Sioui in Ottawa and Quebec

Published and updated on April 30

  • Quebec

Based on the opinion of McGill University, Ministers François Bonnardel and Pascale Déry affirmed Tuesday that the pro-Palestine camp installed on the Montreal campus was “illegal”.

“People have the right to protest, people have the right to express themselves. Now, camping is illegal on McGill University grounds. This is what McGill is telling us. These are the rules of McGill University,” said the Minister of Public Security, François Bonnardel. “For me, for us in government, this encampment has no place on the campus of McGill University,” he ruled.

« I think McGill made the right decision. Obviously according to McGill policies, the encampment was illegal,” also declared the Minister of Higher Education, Pascale Déry, in a short statement made to journalists. In English, she added that “the encampment is not legal, the facilities are not legal, it was not authorized by the University.” She then turned on her heel.

A judge must soon rule on the relevance of restricting pro-Palestinian demonstrations on the campus of McGill University. A request for a temporary injunction on this subject was filed by two students on Tuesday and argued the same day. The Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, also recalled this. He fell back on his duty of reserve as an elected official. “We will let the judges do their job,” he said when a journalist asked him for his opinion on the legality of the encampment.

Pro-Palestine encampment at McGill is “illegal,” say Déry and Bonnardel

Photo: Valérian Mazataud Le Devoir The student camp on the grounds of McGill University displays different banners.

After speaking out on the legality of the encampment, Minister Bonnardel said he was concerned about the safety of the students. “I’ve heard and seen comments from students who don’t feel safe,” he said. He did not want to specify what types of comments he was talking about. McGill, for its part, said in a statement released Monday that it had “viewed video evidence of individuals engaging in intimidating behavior and making blatantly anti-Semitic remarks, which is completely unacceptable on our campuses.”< /p>

Mr. Bonnardel also expressed his confidence in the Montreal Police Service (SPVM). Could the police use force to dislodge the demonstrators ? “I trust the judgment of the SPVM,” replied the elected official.

Ottawa keeps a distance

Asked about the situation at McGill, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, himself a former student of the Montreal university, said that change was necessary. However, he did not provide further details on the interventions he would consider appropriate.

“Too many young Canadians of Jewish faith do not feel safe on their campus. This must change,” he said briefly before entering question period in Ottawa.

At the start of the day, the federal Minister of Justice , Arif Virani, had affirmed that it was the responsibility of McGill University to “manage” the situation of the pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had been installed for several days on its campus.

In the eyes of Minister Virani, also a McGill graduate, it is up to the university administration to “verify” whether criminal acts were committed by the demonstrators. The latter did not want to say whether, in his opinion, the demonstrations went too far or whether the call to police forces was justified.

Pro-Palestine encampment at McGill is “illegal,” say Déry and Bonnardel

Photo: Valérian Mazataud Le Devoir The encampment of pro-Palestinian students and protesters on the campus of McGill University in Montreal even offered free coffee.

“Free speech has limits when promoting hatred or intimidation, destroying property, or preventing other students from studying. It is up to them to check, not me,” Minister Virani said Tuesday morning, adding that universities are managed by the provinces.

“If she judges that laws have been broken, the University should contact the police,” he added.

Called to react, the federal Minister of Public Security, Dominic LeBlanc, indicated that the federal government would not give directives to the police.

“The SPVM has a lot of experience. We have always said that the right to demonstrate is a fundamental right, but it must be done in an orderly manner. […] I have full confidence that the police will do the necessary work,” he said at the entrance to the cabinet in Ottawa on Tuesday.

Anti-Semitic behavior

The leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, for his part, said he was “perplexed” by this type of demonstration. “On several occasions in the recent past, we have seen more radical elements who have infiltrated these demonstrations express explicit support for Hamas and Hezbollah,” he recalled during a press briefing.

Last week, Ottawa police announced they were investigating an allegation of hate speech during a pro-Palestinian demonstration held on the Hill. Parliament. Several complaints concerning certain comments made during this gathering were reportedly filed.

Mr. Blanchet believes that the organizers of the encampment at McGill “should agree to withdraw peacefully” after repeated requests from the University to leave the premises.

“This does not “should not be seen as a lack of solidarity for [Palestinian] civilians, but as a concern about possible slippages that have occurred elsewhere”, he believes.

< p>The university management explained that before calling the police, it followed its protocol by informing the participants that the installation of the camp was not authorized and asking them to leave the premises, which did not had still not been done as of Tuesday.

A similar encampment was set up on the Point Gray campus of the University of British Columbia. For their part, the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa have both warned that setting up camps on their campuses would not be tolerated.

With The Canadian Press

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116