University of Manitoba Students Union ignores legal advice, votes to strip anti-Israel group of official club status
In what B’nai Brith called a “precedent setting move,” the University of Manitoba Students Union voted Thursday to strip the group Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) of official club status.
The motion bars SAIA from receiving student union funding or using activity space in student-union controlled buildings.
The motion was adopted despite an opinion by the student union’s lawyer, who argued that it could leave the union open to litigation.
“However, council disagreed with the advice provided by our legal counsel and voted by 19 to 15 to support the resolution,” said Bilan Arte, president of the students union.
SAIA, a group with campus branches across Canada, annually organizes Israeli Apartheid Week, a weeklong series of events calling for economic, diplomatic and even academic sanctions against the Jewish state.
The two-page resolution justified the delisting of SAIA under the terms of the Manitoba Human Rights Code, claiming that the group was guilty of “discrimination” and “harassment.”
The document also claimed that certain student union members “being Zionists, experience fear for their safety during ‘Israeli Apartheid Week.’”
The student union’s legal opinion countered that “the actions of SAIA were well within the grounds of legally protected and acceptable political discourse” and the motion could put the students union “at a significant risk of committing a breach of [their] legal obligations,” said Ms. Arte.