MONTREAL — There was never any indication that a violent protest would take place at an event organized by a pro-Israel group where member of Parliament Marc Garneau was scheduled to speak, said a Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) spokesperson.
Eta Yudin said CIJA national director of community security Adam Cohen spoke at length with police, who told him they had information that there might be “a peaceful protest by people known to them” outside the event.
The event was to have taken place on the afternoon of Jan. 12 at the downtown office of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR), which had allowed the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) to use its premises.
The chief organizer was Concordia University student Bradley Martin, a CAMERA fellow. He wrote on his Facebook page around noon on Jan. 12 that the event had been cancelled because police had notified CIJR that “a hostile and violent protest” was expected, and he expressed his disappointment and outrage that freedom of speech and assembly has been compromised.
Garneau, the Liberal foreign affairs and international trade critic, was to have spoken on Canada-Israel relations.
A CIJR staff member took a call from police on the morning of Jan, 12, CIJR chair Jack Kincler said.
Because there were “too many unknowns” and “in light of events that took place in France the week before,” he decided to cancel the event.
Yudin said police confirmed that they were only notifying the organization of the information they had, but never advised pulling the plug on the event.
The incident, however, quickly circulated on social media. The group Israel on Campus: Concordia, reacting to Martin’s post, commented on its Facebook page that “police were alerted of a planned violent protest, which has caused the organizers to cancel the event. We understand their concern given the rise of anti-Semitism and violent attacks around the world.
“It is extremely disheartening and upsetting that members of our own national government are not given a chance to share their ideas freely for fear of violent consequences… We will not be silenced and will continue to fight for Israel on campus and in our country.”
Kincler said the police asked if the street-level entrance to the building would be locked at that time, and the CIJR informed them that the door is only secured after business hours.
“They gave us a red light, but they did not say cancel the event,” he said. “I had no idea who might come in. Bradley also had no clue who might show up or how many. I didn’t want a screaming match here.”
Kincler, who was out of the country when the room was given to CAMERA, said that if it had been a CIJR event, he would not have cancelled it, but the organization always takes advance registration for its activities and keeps its address confidential.
Whatever might have happened, Kincler added that “it is unacceptable that it is always one side intimidating” the other in the Middle East conflict.
The CJN was unable to reach Martin for comment. He emailed on Jan. 13 that he had “too many prior commitments” to speak. He did not return follow-up emails and his phone line was either busy or not taking messages.