(July 19, 2021 / JNS) Just days after Ontario’s Department of Education won kudos from the Jewish community for a new initiative aimed at curbing anti-Semitism in its schools, the school district in its largest city, Toronto, has reinstated an educator who was placed on leave after sending out an anti-Israel booklet to teachers.
“It is outrageous that an individual who distributed materials associated with a listed terrorist entity has been reinstated by the TDSB [Toronto District School Board] without any discipline. Failure to attach consequences to hateful behaviors undermines the safety and well-being of students and staff,” said Noah Shack, vice president, Greater Toronto Area, of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). “Schools are supposed to be an environment free from hatred, discrimination and violence, designed to nurture and develop learning in children and youth. The resources distributed by Dávila have poisoned that environment. Materials supporting the PFLP should be as intolerable as those supporting ISIS or the Ku Klux Klan.”
In mid-May, during the height of Israel’s 11-day conflict with Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip, Javier Dávila, a member of the district’s “gender-based violence unit,” sent out a 51-page booklet that included suggested reading links to documents related to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the PFLP, a recognized terrorist entity in Canada, and another that justified “armed struggle and martyrdom operations (called ‘suicide bombing’ by Zionists).”
In a statement, school district spokesman Ryan Bird said “after an extensive investigation, the staff member has been returned to their duties and has not been formally disciplined. As we’ve stated previously, the resources in question were not vetted prior to distribution. Had they been, they would not have been approved given the potential impact on students, staff and families in our school communities. With that in mind, we are currently reviewing and revising our expectations around resources of this nature and the appropriate vetting process that must be followed to avoid something like this happening again.”
He added that the district is working to “finalize” a staff member from both the CIJA and the National Council of Canadian Muslims to “help develop resources with regard to anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia and anti-Israel and anti-Palestinian sentiments.”
The decision comes as anti-Semitism in Canada continues to increase, including in schools. In the most recent figures available, the Toronto District School Board’s Human Rights Annual Report 2018-20 recorded 31 incidents of anti-Semitism in 2019-20—more than double the number from the previous year.
Michael Motsyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said the reinstatement with no discipline sends a “clear signal that it regards Jewish students, Jewish teachers and the Jewish community as second-class constituents. There is no way the TDSB would tolerate the glorification of violence against any other minority group.”
“It is clear that the TDSB has a serious anti-Semitism problem,” he said, “and it is questionable whether the institution can fix it alone.”
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