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Five Tweets on the campus politics of the Israel-Hamas conflict


TORONTO – Since Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel on October 7th, both the attacks and Israel’s military response have been the subject of protests, rallies, and solidarity statements on Canadian university campuses.

Student groups have been particularly vocal, with many issuing statements that express solidarity with Palestine. Some have even appeared to support the Hamas attacks. Universities and Jewish organizations have released their own statements. The University of Toronto and York University are generally representative of the campus dynamics in response to the renewed conflict in the Middle East.

On October 10th, Joseph Wong, University of Toronto’s vice president for international issues, issued a statement that condemned terrorist violence and the kidnapping of civilians and expressed condolences to both Israelis and Palestinians. Its student unions had their say as well, and that same day the University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union issued a statement via Instagram that expressed solidarity with the Palestinians, including for what it described as Israel’s “ethnic cleansing and mass genocide”, and characterized Hamas’ terrorist attacks as “the right to resist an apartheid regime.” About a week later, the University of Toronto Scarborough Student Union issued a similar statement, including a demand for the protection of those calling for a “free Palestine.”

Three York University student groups—the York Federation of Students, York University Graduate Students’ Association, and the Glendon College Student Union—issued their own statement of solidarity with Palestine on October 12th. The statement referred to Hamas’ attacks as “a strong act of resistance” to what it characterized as “settler-colonialism, apartheid, and genocide.” Nowhere did it acknowledge or recognize the Israelis who were killed, hurt, or kidnapped by Hamas.

Following the statement, York University received calls to decertify the student union. In response, on October 13th, the university issued a tweet from its official account that “unequivocally condemned” the student unions’ statement (though it did not mention them by name).

York University gave the three student unions until October 25th to retract their statement. The groups refused to do so and instead issued another statement accusing the university of attacking union autonomy. As a result, the York Federation of Students organized a rally on November 2nd on campus and encouraged students to join them in protest. 

That same day, the Canadian Federation of Students issued its own statement of solidarity with Palestine and the student unions who have come out in its favour. In particular, the statement condemned the “attacks on students’ unions” by university administrators which it characterized as efforts “to undermine student union autonomy and student safety.” 

Hillel York, a Jewish-led student organization at York University, has been vocal about the ongoing hostage crisis. In response to the various statements from the university’s major student groups, it issued its own that criticized the others for treating “civilians in Israel as legitimate targets” and reflecting “an extreme and deliberate disregard for not only Jewish but all students affected by the horrible tragedies that have been and continue to occur.”

As the situation on university campuses continues to heat up, it is highly likely that this debate will continue in civil proceedings. York University and the York Federation of Students are currently being sued in a $15 million class-action lawsuit by current students, recent alumni, and former attendees from 1988 to 2021 on the grounds of negligence, specifically failing to address incidents of antisemitism, violating its non-discrimination policies. Depending on the outcome of this case, a precedent might be set for Canadian student unions and their universities to limit the language and focus of solidarity statements in the future.

If you enjoy Hub podcasts (including bi-weekly episodes with David Frum and Amanda Lang), be sure to check out more insightful commentary on The Hub’s YouTube page:

Five Tweets that reflect the problem with the prime minister’s carbon tax reversal


TORONTO — On October 27, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the government would, among other things, implement a three-year pause to the federal carbon tax on heating oil in all jurisdictions where the federal fuel charge is in effect.

The announcement has generated a lot of policy and political debate because its been characterized as political special treatment for Atlantic Canadians where home heating oil is disproportionately used and a long-run threat to the carbon tax’s viability since it will invariably lead to similar demands for exemptions. The following five tweets from leading policy experts and politicians reflect the these different perspectives.

Blake Shaffer, an associate professor in the department of economics at the University of Calgary, described this as a “cynical political move” to protect the Liberal Party’s support in Atlantic Canada where polls indicate the prime minister and his party have strong disapproval ratings.

Over the weekend, federal Minister for Rural Economic Development Gudie Hutchings told CTV Question Period that other Canadians—particularly in Western Canada—may have more success securing a similar exemption on their heating costs if they had Liberal members of Parliament.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith criticized the federal government’s decision as unfair to Albertans and Saskatchewanians who will not benefit from the exemption on their natural gas heating.

Pierre Poilievre, leader of the federal Conservative Party, similarly criticized the asymmetric treatment of the government’s exemption and called on the prime minister to extend to it to natural gas, propane, and other heating.

Trevor Tombe, professor of economics at the University of Calgary and Hub contributor, described the growing demands for exemptions similar to the one announced by Ottawa as evidence that “the carbon tax is now effectively dead.”

At this point, the federal government has indicated that it will not consider other exemptions for the carbon tax. It is too early to judge whether that position will be sustainable in light of the challenges set out by Shaffer, Tombe, and others.

If you enjoy Hub podcasts (including bi-weekly episodes with David Frum and Amanda Lang), be sure to check out more insightful commentary on The Hub’s YouTube page: