March 7, 2012
Dear President Rock and Mr. Bergeron,
I recently learned that the University of Ottawa is threatening to prevent the keynote event for Israeli Apartheid Week in Ottawa from taking place, by cancelling the students’ pre-approved room booking. Hiding these silencing tactics behind the cover of bureaucracy is worrying. Israeli Apartheid Week is a week of educational and cultural events that critically engages with the policies undertaken by the Israeli state against the Palestinian people.
Over the past four years in Ottawa alone, this week has brought distinguished speakers ranging from members of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament), former leaders of the African National Congress (ANC), Jewish Holocaust Survivors, prominent indigenous leaders, and some of the most high-profile Palestinian scholars and activists from around the world.
I also know that Israeli Apartheid Week has brought with it a great deal of backlash from University Administrations, including your own. When the University of Ottawa banned the Apartheid Week Poster in 2009, it shocked many people who were following the controversy, as it appeared that the University of Ottawa was taking a clear position in support of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, and against freedom of speech and student organizing.
I urge you not to make the same mistake again. Regardless of whether or not you agree that Israel is an Apartheid State, do not get in the way of student organizing and open discussion of this issue. Censoring the discussions that take place at your University through bureaucratic means reflects very poorly on the University of Ottawa and its leadership.
Consequently, I ask that you ensure that Thursday night’s IAW Keynote Speech is able to take place and that the room booking is not revoked. Also, I would like to know why SPHR was threatened with a cancelled room booking in the first place.
Co-Chair, Seriously Free Speech Committee