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Ottawa-Carleton District School Board needs to deal with antisemitism

The OCDSB is the only school board that advised its Jewish students to hide in a safe room during student demonstrations calling for the destruction of Israel instead of taking decisive action to disallow or discourage the hateful demonstrations.

The Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation (CAEF)The Lawfare Project and the #EndJewHatred civil-rights movement acknowledge very positive steps taken by the Ottawa Police Services Hate and Bias Unit in regard to a recent incident of antisemitism allegedly carried out by two high school students against a Jewish student. We thank the Ottawa Police Service for swift and decisive action in charging the students but now turn to the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) which has been anything but swift or decisive.

The OCDSB is the only school board that was judged by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to have discriminated against a student for failing to properly address a series of antisemitic incidents over several years, for which the student was awarded damages.

The OCDSB is the only school board that advised its Jewish students to hide in a safe room during student demonstrations calling for the destruction of Israel instead of taking decisive action to disallow or discourage the hateful demonstrations which intimidated and discriminated against the Jewish students.

The OCDSB is the only school board whose officials did nothing when a student corrupted an Indigenous land acknowledgment at a graduation ceremony to rant at “Zionists” for “stealing her land.”

The OCDSB is the only school board whose senior staff conspired to exclude the Hon. Irwin Cotler, Canada’s Special Envoy on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism Holocaust denial, from a professional development program for teachers because Cotler supports the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism as part of his core mandate. Then the board engaged in a cover-up of the reasons, which was only revealed by a Freedom of Information (FOIL) proceeding brought by one of our organization’s board members.

The OCDSB is now the only school board district that we know of in which students have been criminally charged with an alleged hate crime. Two students of Sir Robert Borden Collegiate Institute were charged with promoting hatred, criminal harassment and mischief in the alleged incident.

The OCDSB had rejected a motion to adopt and implement the IHRA definition as urged by the Ottawa Jewish community and national organizations such as CAEF, in order to confront the rising tide of antisemitism and to educate teachers and students on how to identify acts of Jew-hatred and take preventative measures.

It is clear that there is a chronic and severe antisemitism problem at the OCDSB. It is crucial that the board move forward and implement the IHRA definition of antisemitism as adopted by the Canadian and provincial governments and other school boards across the country without delay.

If there were ever a school board in this province in desperate need of a full-time Jewish Equity Coach, this is the one. A motion will be presented to the board on Jan. 17 to create that position, and it is hoped by the Jewish community that this time there will be swift and decisive action.

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#EndJewHatred is an international grassroots civil rights movement that unites ordinary people, activists, and organizations from around the world who support the cause that defines the movement: to end Jew-hatred in our lifetime. It does so by altering public discourse to make Jew-hatred unacceptable in society, while empowering Jews with positivity and strength to discover and enjoy their heritage in whichever manner they choose, without fear of attack or persecution.
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