There is nothing that is intentionally “alarmist” about this headline, as much as some Canadians would want to reassure themselves that only with reference to a corrupt and dictatorial African state would such a headline have any relevance. However, the fact remains, and it is documented and abundantly public, that the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear, has intervened in a political action. designed to impede academic freedom for daring to question the supremacy of Israel. Goodyear is a member of the ruling Conservative Party that won power, as a minority government, thanks to 22% of registered voters who cast their ballots for this increasingly extreme right wing party. Not in many decades has Canada seen such an extremist party in power, rendering Canada the last refuge of the Neo-Con agenda, and hopefully its final burial ground.
Not only has the ruling party,
- consistently and automatically backed Israel, without regard for international law or human rights, with a speed that approaches the instantaneous, on whatever issue at whatever time even when the U.S. criticizes Israel, declaring its bias openly against Arab Canadians and their national organizations (and pulling their funding);
- acted on purely ideological grounds to ban foreign speakers from Canada, while playing host to war criminals such as George W. Bush on at least two occasions since he left office;
- declared, in absolutely upside down logic, that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism and is an “existential threat” to the whole of “Western civilization”;
- not only has Minister Goodyear refused to confirm whether he believes in biological evolution — remember, this is a Minister for science, he famously stated: “I’m not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate”;
- Minister Goodyear cut research funding to the social sciences and reoriented more of the funding to favour business, in line with the ruling party’s ideological agenda;
but now Minister Goodyear also directly intervened to try to stop funding awarded for a conference, purely on political grounds, and at the behest of the Zionist lobby, and in a clear violation of academic freedom. This is the situation we are dealing with now. These actions and statements have been in public and are documented for anyone whose ideological blinkers are not so firmly nailed into their skulls that they cannot see any of this.
And to some extent, it is we academics, and the wider citizenry, that are to blame. As detailed and discussed in greater depth in my series of essays on SSHRC funding, the Federal Government has no constitutional right to be funding education, which is the domain of the Provinces. In setting up something like SSHRC, the Federal Government violates provincial jurisdiction, and overly centralizes research funding, thereby reducing any room for autonomy in local decision-making. If instead of mumbling and grumbling in private, as the majority of us do — now check how many articles or blog posts are “out there” by Canadian academics critical of SSHRC — we should be organizing. Funding for research should be managed by those who know what to do with it, and that means that any funds that the Federal Government has been accumulating from the Provinces, and directing into research funding, should instead be returned to the Provinces, whose universities should be the primary if not sole arbiters about how to distribute and manage research funds. It makes sense — which means it will likely never see the light of day. In the meantime, we continue to allow ourselves to be held hostage to funding that is aligned with state power that is itself aligned with a ruling party.
Let us look now at the latest episode from Extreme Canada, concerning political intervention designed to stop SSHRC Funding for Conference at York University, “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace,” beginning with those who complained about the conference, and responses from many academics in protest:
12 June 2009, B’Nai Brith statement:
Upcoming conference at York University promises to be a ‘Who’s Who’ of anti-Israel propagandists
*Speakers include Holocaust deniers and those who rationalize terrorism*
A virulent anti-Israel hate fest is coming to the York University campus on June 22-24, 2009. The Conference Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace is far from an exercise in legitimate academic debate. At its core, the agenda challenges the very existence of just one state – the Jewish State.
Hosted by York University , this conference has attracted diverse sponsorships, among them the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, a federal agency answerable to Parliament, which reports directly to the Minister of Industry. Other lead sponsors from the academic world include several departments of York University itself, including its U50 Planning Committee responsible for the institution’s 50th anniversary celebrations, Osgoode Hall Law School, York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies, its Vice President Academic and Vice President of Research & Innovation, as well as the University’s Jack and Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security. Queen’s University and its Faculty of Law are listed as sponsors as well.
The veil of academia provided by these sponsors should not fool anyone. No academic body should lend its imprimatur to a conference where several of the speakers are actively engaged in Holocaust denial, rationalize terrorism, and are infamous anti-Israel propagandists. Below is a sampling of some of the egregious statements made by key speakers, reflecting the conference’s true aim – an end to the Jewish State.
COMMUNITY ACTION ALERT
When writing to the following sponsors, make clear your objections to this conference. Cite the cases mentioned above where some of the conference’s key speakers are engaged in Holocaust denial, rationalize terrorism and call for the destruction of the Jewish State. Request that their support of this conference – both moral and financial – be immediately withdrawn. Please send blind carbon copy of your letters to B’nai Brith Canada at email@example.com.Write to the head of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and request that this federal agency undertake an internal review of its funding to the conference in light of new information that has come to light.
Ms. Carmen Charette
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
350 Albert Street
P.O. Box 1610
Ottawa , ON K1P 6G4
Tel: (613) 613-947-5265
Fax: (613) 947-4010
Write to the President of York University . Raise your objections to this event being part of the institution’s 50th anniversary celebrations. If you are a student, professor or alumnus of this institution, make it known. As a Canadian taxpayer, insist that your tax dollars not be used to promote hatred.
Dr. Mamdouh Shoukri
President and Vice-Chancellor
S949 Ross Building
4700 Keele Street
Toronto , Ontario M3J 1P3
Tel: (416) 736-5200
Fax: (416) 736-5641
Write to the Chancellor of Queen’s University and query why the institution would lend its good name to a conference that promotes hatred. Indicate if you are a student, professor or alumnus of this institution.
Dr. David Dodge
Chancellor, Queen’s University
99 University Avenue
Kingston , Ontario K7L 3N6
Tel: (613) 533-2200
Fax: (613) 533-2793
B’nai Brith Canada has been active in Canada since 1875 as the foremost Jewish human rights organization. To learn more about its advocacy work and diverse community and social programs, please visit http://www.bnaibrith.ca.
Science for Peace (at University of Toronto): STATEMENT
Science for Peace is one of the oldest Canadian non-governmental organizations to advocate persistently for peace and justice. We maintain that there are always non-military solutions to conflicts and that wars are illegal aggressive acts.
- The Israeli/Palestinian impasse involves sixty-one years of occupation, the siege of Gaza, and illegal continued expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank
- the potential use of nuclear weapons the likely use of non-conventional illegal weapons in 2006 and 2009, currently under UN investigation,
- and the documented ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population (based on Israeli archival evidence).
Given these verifiable facts, Science for Peace commends Queens University and York University for organizing the historical conference “Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace”. The conference brings together world-renowned scholars, principally from Israel, Palestine, Canada, the U.S., and the E.U. Science for Peace also commends York University president Shoukri for his strong stand in support of this conference.
We are unequivocally opposed to Minister Gary Goodyear’s request for a second peer review of the conference. We understand that there are allegations from B’nai Brith and from the Canadian Council for Israeli and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA) that this conference is anti-Semitic and aims to de-legitimize the State of Israel. This entirely misrepresents the conference, its participants and its aims. The accusation is provocative and slanderous. The allegations reflect astonishing ignorance of the research and analytic work being done by innumerable scholars and concerned citizens to peacefully resolve this seemingly intransigent issue.
Along with the Canadian Association of University Teachers, we call for the resignation of Minister Gary Goodyear for allowing this politicized interference in academic freedom.
Judith Deutsch, President
Chandler Davis, Treasurer
Science for Peace
A306 University College
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Science for Peace
CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY TEACHERS (CAUT)
[Canada’s full-time faculty union]
Open Letter to the President of SSHRC
June 12, 2009
To: Dr. Chad Gaffield
Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council
350 Albert Street
P.O. Box 1610
Dear Dr. Gaffield:
We are deeply troubled by your response to Minister of Science and Technology Gary Goodyear’s complaint to you about the conference on Israel/Palestine being held at York University later this month. Your action of requiring the conference organizers to immediately provide you with a list of all changes to their program since their grant was awarded violates SSHRC’s own policies and legitimates the Minister’s unprecedented and unacceptable political intervention in SSHRC’s peer-reviewed granting process. In short, your response was not to stand against the Minister’s action but to bow to it.
When asked by the Minister to review SSHRC’s peer-reviewed approval of the York University conference, you should have pointed out to him that his request was inappropriate — that every minister before him had understood it was unacceptable to bring political pressures to bear on academic decision-making.
In an apparent effort to please the Minister, you chose to disregard SSHRC’s Grant Holder’s Policy that specifies any changes other than a major change to the theme of the conference are to be provided in the organizers’ report of activities submitted at the conclusion of the grant. Instead, you demanded the information now so as to comply with the Minister’s request.
Whether or not you allow the funding to go ahead, your actions have legitimated political intervention that sullies SSHRC’s record of commitment to standing behind its peer-reviewed decisions.
As President of SSHRC, you have an obligation to uphold the integrity of the academic grant awarding procedures of SSHRC that are designed to ensure that peer review, not political considerations, guide SSHRC’s decisions.
At the very least, you owe an apology to the conference organizers for your failure to protect the integrity of the granting process of SSHRC. You need publicly to assure the Canadian academic community that your bowing to political pressure will not happen again. If you cannot or will not do this, we question your fitness to continue in your present position.
Open Letter to SSHRC President from Faculty members of Osgoode Hall Law School
June 14, 2009
To: Dr. Chad Gaffield
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
350 Albert Street, P.O. Box 1610
Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 6G4
Dear Dr. Gaffield:
Re: Review of SSHRC Funding for Conference at York University: “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace”
We are writing as members of the faculty of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University to express our extreme dismay that SSHRC appears to be acceding to political pressure by revisiting its decision to fund the above-noted academic conference.
As you know, two of our esteemed colleagues, Professors Susan Drummond and Bruce Ryder, have taken a lead role in planning this event and we write in part to support them and their co-organizers, Professor Sharry Aiken and PhD Candidate Mazen Masri. However this issue has grown far beyond the need to support individual colleagues. Your decision as SSHRC President to require a special pre-conference accounting from the conference organizers, outside the normal post-conference reporting procedures for conference grants, raises the much larger question of your agency’s integrity as a funder and promoter of independent university-based research in Canada.
As a group we have extensive experience with the organization of academic conferences and with SSHRC granting procedures. We believe there is no basis at all for the suggestion that “major changes” were made to the plan for this conference after the grant application had been peer reviewed and funding granted. Nor do we believe that you could possibly see any basis for this suggestion. Rather, it appears that the special accounting was demanded of our colleagues in direct response to the unprecedented and entirely inappropriate political intervention of Minister Goodyear.
We believe that SSHRC made a serious error in acceding to political interference in this manner. Whether or not SSHRC ultimately submits to the demand for a new peer review that better meets the Minister’s political ends, and whether or not the funding for this conference is ultimately jeopardized, we fear that SSHRC has already compromised the autonomy of academic research in this country. By intruding into the planning of an academic event after a funding decision has been made, SSHRC’s actions are likely to have a most unfortunate chilling effect on academics considering the exploration of controversial or unpopular topics. In addition, by casting doubt on the integrity of its own procedures, SSHRC has empowered those who would devalue academic research and discourse by insisting that academic freedom be reserved only for those who happen to share their point of view.
We hope that SSHRC will very shortly stand up to defend its own granting procedures and the values of academic excellence and autonomy they are designed to protect.
Harry W. Arthurs, Professor Emeritus, Former Dean, Former President
Margaret E. Beare, Professor
Neil Brooks, Professor
Ruth Buchanan, Associate Professor
Jamie B. Cameron, Professor
Mary G. Condon, Professor
Carys J. Craig, Associate Professor
Giuseppina D’Agostino, Assistant Professor
Paul D. Emond, Associate Professor
Trevor C.W. Farrow, Associate Professor
Simon R. Fodden, Professor Emeritus
Shelley A.M. Gavigan, Professor
Joan M. Gilmour, Associate Professor
Leslie Green, Professor
Richard Haigh, Visiting Professor
Balfour J. Halévy, Professor Emeritus
Doug Hay, Professor
Allan C. Hutchinson, Distinguished Research Professor
Shin Imai, Associate Professor
Shelley Kierstead, Assistant Professor
Sonia Lawrence, Associate Professor
Jinyan Li, Professor
Michael Mandel, Professor
Ikechi Mgbeoji, Associate Professor
Louis Mirando, Chief Law Librarian
Janet Mosher, Associate Professor and Associate Dean
Mary Jane Mossman, Professor of Law (sign. after initial release)
Roxanne Mykitiuk, Associate Professor
Obiora Chinedu Okafor, Professor
Lisa Philipps, Associate Professor
Marilyn L. Pilkington, Associate Professor and Former Dean
Poonam Puri, Associate Professor
Sean Rehaag, Assistant Professor
Benjamin J. Richardson, Professor
Brian Slattery, Professor
Sara Slinn, Assistant Professor
James Stribopoulos, Associate Professor
Craig M. Scott, Professor
Kate Sutherland, Associate Professor
François Tanguay-Renaud, Assistant Professor
Eric M. Tucker, Professor
Gus Van Harten, Assistant Professor
Robert S. Wai, Associate Professor
Garry D. Watson, Professor
Cynthia Williams, Osler Chair in Business Law
Stepan Wood, Associate Professor
Alan N. Young, Associate Professor
Peer Zumbansen, Canada Research Chair & Associate Dean (Research, Graduate Studies and Institutional Relations)
Bruce B. Ryder, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School
Susan G. Drummond, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School
Sharry J. Aiken, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University
Mazen Masri, Ph.D. candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School
Mamdouh Shoukri, President, York University
Stan Shapson, Vice-President (Research & Innovation), York University
Patrick Monahan, Dean of Law and VPA-Elect, York University
Mr. J. Craig McNaughton, Senior Program Officer Strategic Grants and joint Initiatives, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
James L. Turk, Executive Director, Canadian Association of University Teachers
The Hon. Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science & Technology)
The Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Dr. Marc Garneau, Liberal Critic for Industry, Science and Technology
Mr. Jim Maloway, NDP Critic for Science and Technology
M Robert Vincent, Bloc Critic for Science and Technology
B’nai Brith Canada has clearly taken an action that has brought itself into greater public disrepute, with the shrill, slanderous, and extreme nature of its complaint. It has offended wide swaths of the academic community and turned them against itself. If supporting Israel requires that one engage in lies, fabrications, distortions, and hysterical fear-mongering, it rightly puts one of the final nails in the coffin of the Zionist lobby, which is apparently incapable of engaging in rational, civil dialogue with a basic modicum of honesty.
Quoting from my colleagues at the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, I note the pattern of injuries to academic freedom in Canada whenever the issue of Israeli colonialism comes up for discussion:
The last two years have seen increasing efforts to limit advocacy of Palestinian rights on Canadian universities, amounting to a pattern of the suppression of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. These include:
- Statements from 19 university presidents in the summer of 2007 to foreclose debate on the academic boycott of Israel, citing “academic freedom”.
- Visits to Israel by eight university presidents in the summer of 2008, with no equivalent outreach to Palestinian institutions.
- Efforts to ban the use of the term “Israeli Apartheid” at McMaster University in February-March 2008, overturned only through a campaign of protest.
- Discipline against students involved in peaceful protests for Palestinian rights at York University in March in 2008.
- Attempted discipline against a faculty member who addressed a rally against Israeli Apartheid at York University in 2008.
- A pattern of cancellation of room bookings for meetings concerning Palestinian rights at the University of Toronto and York University in 2008.
- The use of security clearance requirements and fees to cover security costs to impede campus meetings about Palestinian rights.
Readers should consider writing letters to the concerned parties, possibly following these samples:
Sample letter TO MINISTER GARY GOODYEAR
Dear Minister Goodyear,
I am writing to express my dismay at your recent blatant political interference in a major academic conference to be held at York University on Israel/Palestine. It is unprecedented for a minister, especially one from a department that funds granting councils to intervene personally to review funding for a conference that went through a full and partial review. The conference in question has a superb roster of speakers, with decades of internationally recognized scholarship reflected in the program. It is absolutely legitimate and critical that universities in democratic societies allow full and open debate on controversial issues such as involving the protracted conflicts in Israel/Palestine. I support CAUT’s call for your resignation based on your entirely illegitimate and appalling personal interference in the funding of this academic conference.
Sample letter to YORK UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT SHOUKRI
Dear President Shoukri,
I am writing to commend you for stating your clear support for the upcoming conference, “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace”. I agree that it is entirely appropriate to include this in York’s 50th anniversary events calendar – indeed, it would be an outrage to exclude it. York is fortunate that the conference organizers decided on this university as the site for this excellent program and the high quality experts and speakers.
I understand that you have been under pressure for some time now to disavow this conference. Most notably, a May 12th statement by the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA) called for a letter-writing campaign to pressure you to remove support for the conference. Following your refusal, a new campaign to delegitimate and dismantle the conference is now underway. This week the B’nai Brith issued a statement urging federal Minister Gary Goodyear “to direct the SSHRC to immediately withdraw its funding” from the conference.
These pressure campaigns are mobilized around the false assumption that any criticism of the Israeli state is anti-semitic. They are in intended to silence legitimate and well-founded criticism of the Israeli state for its ongoing violations of international law (including the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, the apartheid wall, construction of settlements on occupied land, and refusing Palestinian refugees right of return).
You are correct in your decision to reject these intimidation tactics, and I hope your decision stands as an example for all university Presidents when confronted with similar repressive tactics in the future.
Sample letter to SSHRC PRESIDENT CHAD GAFFIELD
Dear President Gaffield,
I have recently learned that Minister Gary Goodyear has requested that you revisit a SSHRC peer-review process which
resulted in a decision to grant funds to a conference that is being held at York University this month (“Israel/Palestine: Mapping \Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace”). I am writing to make you aware that academics across the country are outraged at the Minister’s blatant political interference in the funding of this major academic conference, and that his actions are being held under close scrutiny and condemnation. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has called for the Minister’s resignation. I urge you not to succumb to the Minister’s unprecedented and unwarranted pressure, and to fully reject his request for a re-review of the conference application.