Gabriel Miller: Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights appearance regarding antisemitism

May 27, 2024
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Gabriel Miller

President and CEO, Universities Canada

Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights appearance

Good morning, Madam Chair and honourable members of the committee.

My name is Gabriel Miller, and I am the President and CEO of Universities Canada. As an organization, we are the federal and international voice of Canadian universities.

Though it’s only been two months since I joined Universities Canada, I can be certain there will never be another issue more important than the one we’re here to discuss today.

I want to begin by thanking the committee for undertaking this important and timely study and, even more importantly, I want to thank the Jewish students and scholars who have  bravely shared their painful stories. I am sorry for what you have endured. We hear you, and we take this very seriously.

Universities Canada unequivocally condemns antisemitism and all forms of racism and discrimination. Hateful, antisemitic acts have no place on our campuses or in our communities. They must be stopped.

Learning on a safe, supportive campus, free from harassment, intimidation or fear for one’s safety, is critical for students and for the integrity of our institutions. The academic environment should foster freedom of expression, and with that comes the freedom to confront opinions or statements we may find misguided or offensive.  However, students must feel secure attending university, to learn, to take part in constructive dialogue, and to participate fully in campus life.

At Universities Canada, we support this objective by facilitating collaboration among our members, the federal government, the private sector and the communities in which we live. Recently we have helped in four key areas:

  1. Working with Public Safety and the RCMP to help ensure the physical safety of students, staff and faculty across Canada; 
  2. Preventing hate and antisemitic acts through campus codes of conduct, which should, by definition, help protect Jewish students;  
  3. Sharing best practices and lessons among institutions and the community. 
  4. Working with 27 universities to detail the specific actions they are taking to fight antisemitism in response to a December 13 request from MPs.

Universities Canada is working closely with Deborah Lyons, Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism; the Department of Public Safety; the RCMP; local MPs of the campuses most impacted, and community-led organizations such as the Network of Engaged Canadian Academics, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and B’nai Brith Canada. We are also in close contact with our international counterparts like Universities UK, and the American Council on Education.

We are listening carefully to Jewish students and scholars, and to leaders in the fight against antisemitism. We welcome the practical,  concrete solutions that have been presented to this committee: proposals to ensure equal application of existing codes of conduct;  ; EDI policies that fight antisemitism and speak to Jewish students, faculty and staff; new education and training programs; more extensive data collection and reporting; and broadening the use of the non-binding IHRA definition as a valuable tool to help universities identify and address antisemitism. We are committed to working with our members and with governments to address these recommendations.

We know from police reports and annual audits that incidents of antisemitism have been steadily rising in Canada. And as many who have appeared before the committee have rightly pointed out, if antisemitism, hatred, racism and discrimination are not stopped wherever they are found, they spread; they grow. We cannot forget the lessons of history when it comes to how unchecked hateful language too easily progresses to more hateful action.

These problems do not stop at the edge of campus. Antisemitism affects our whole society and demands a national, whole-of-government response.  It is not a partisan issue either, and I hope members will continue to approach this study and the resulting report with a multipartisan approach.

Universities have a particular responsibility to be models for respectful dialogue and respectful conduct. This responsibility extends not only to our students, staff and faculty, but to leaders in the broader Canadian community. It is incumbent on us to do everything in our purview to prevent antisemitism, just as it is incumbent on elected leaders and leaders from all sectors to do the same.

Thank you again for undertaking this important study, and I look forward to your questions.

About Universities Canada
Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, advancing higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians.

Media contact:

Lisa Wallace
Assistant Director, Communications
Universities Canada
[email protected]

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