Canadian Federation of Students adopts BDS motion

BDS protesters rally in 2016. (Palestine Solidarity Campaign/CC BY 2.0)

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) approved a resolution supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel and endorsed a statement that “the ongoing occupation of Palestine be condemned,” at its annual general meeting yesterday.

The CFS, which represents 500,000 students, also approved supporting “different Palestine-solidarity organizations,” with in-kind support and financial donations of up to $500.

The resolution, passed at the student group’s annual general meeting in Ottawa, also recommended that “a statement be released to our membership condemning the recent atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza.”


The vote was swiftly condemned by Hillels across Canada. In a statement, the Jewish student organization wrote: “This latest call for a boycott of Israel is anti-academic, fueled by hatred and is counterproductive to peace. The motion is rife with factual inaccuracies and historical distortions. In its obsessive campaign against exclusively one country and one community, the CFS has further marginalized the thousands of Jewish students whom it is tasked with representing.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs noted that no university administration in North America has endorsed BDS. In 2013, Canadian universities signed an agreement with their counterparts in Israel to promote research, as well as student and faculty exchanges.

In the apology that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered in the House of Commons earlier this month for Canada’s refusal to allow Jewish refugees aboard the MS St. Louis to land in Canada in 1939, he reminded the country that anti-Semitism is “still far too present.”

Taking aim at the BDS movement specifically, he said that, “Jewish students still feel unwelcome and uncomfortable on some of our college and university campuses because of BDS-related intimidation.”

B’nai Brith Canada has launched an online petition calling on the CFS to rescind the motion.

On behalf of B’nai Brith on Campus, Hasbara Fellowships Canada and the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), the petition challenges CFS’s motion, saying that “this shameful decision, which in no way reflects the views of the broad majority of Canadian students, coupled with the abuse of funds to support the anti-Semitic discrimination of Jewish students, must be condemned.”

The petition also notes that the resolution violates the student organization’s own policy on discrimination “based on place of origin, ethnicity or citizenship.”

However, the CFS motion was warmly received by Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV), which voted to endorse BDS in 2009.

Refuting the prime minister’s criticism of BDS activities on campus, Rudi Barwin, a spokesperson for the IJV chapter at Carleton University, said in a statement that, “The idea that BDS creates an unsafe environment for Jewish students is simply unfounded. In making this claim, Trudeau unfairly places the blame for anti-Semitism on Palestinians and those standing in solidarity with their cause.

“As a Jewish student and member of IJV, I congratulate the CFS for rejecting the Canadian government’s scapegoating of Palestine solidarity activists and for taking action toward a just peace in Israel-Palestine.”