Man under deportation order due to terrorist links to speak at University of Toronto

Issam Al Yamani in 2014. (YouTube Screenshot)

An event scheduled to take place at the University of Toronto on Sept. 10 includes a speaker who was ordered to be deported from Canada for his ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is classified as a terrorist organization.

The speaker, Issam Al Yamani, was ordered deported from Canada in 2005, although the order has yet to be carried out.

Organizers of the event, called Worker Solidarity, Israeli Economic Apartheid & the Struggle for Justice in Palestine, describes Al Yamani as a “Palestinian activist/trade unionist on the Palestinian workers’ movement.”

Ilan Orzy, the director of advocacy and issues management for Hillel Ontario, first found out about the event over the Labour Day weekend, when he was monitoring social media.

“We are deeply concerned about his presence on campus, and obviously very perturbed by the idea that a person with ties to a terrorist organization would be even invited to campus. And beyond that, we have engaged in conversations with the University of Toronto’s administration and have made them aware of our concerns,” he said.

Orzy said that the administration told him they’d be investigating the event and would get back to Hillel. A representative from the university’s media relations department said that, “U of T just recently become aware of this event and we are still gathering information.”

We are deeply concerned about his presence on campus.
– Ilan Orzy

Orzy also said that campus security would be increasing their presence near the Hillel building on the night of the event.

“It’s simply a precaution that we can afford to take and we should take. I wouldn’t say I’m any more concerned than I would be in this kind of situation. But I like to take every precaution I can, especially when it comes to the safety and security of our students,” he said.

Orzy added that it’s important to be especially aware of these events at this time of year.

“With the beginning of the school year upon us, there are new students on campus in the Jewish community who have never experienced issues like these. And we do our best to not only support them in addressing these issues, but ensuring that they continue to have a vibrant and safe university experience, regardless of what else is going on on campus,” he said.

According to a 2017 letter written by the Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA), Al Yamani first arrived in Canada in 1985 and was granted permanent resident status. He applied for Canadian citizenship in 1988, but was never granted it.

A 2018 Global News investigation noted that “a 2014 Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) report alleged (Al Yamani) was a ‘danger to the security of Canada’ who formerly led a terrorist cell that conducted a bombing,” and that the CBSA believed a speech of his from 2014 was intended to incite violence.

But not everyone agrees that Al Yamani should be deported. The aforementioned 2017 OCLA letter, addressed to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, urged the minister to reinstate Al Yaman’s permanent resident status and cancel his deportation order.

“We understand that during the 30 years that Mr. Al-Yamani has been under investigation he has never been found to have been complicit in or to have committed any acts of violence, and that he has long ago cut his ties to the PFLP, in 1991,” reads the letter, which said he has become an active member of the community over his three decades in this country.

“Canada must not exaggerate or incorrectly allege threats to security from individuals in order to satisfy domestic interest groups or allied-state pressures, rather than defend human rights. Instead, Canada must have confidence in the democratic process of popular political discourse and in the strength of all communities to participate in the public good,” it concludes.

Meanwhile, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a statement on Sept. 6 demanding the school disallow Al Yamani from speaking at the event.

The organizers of the event did not respond to requests for comment.