The University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) was forced to apologise after it declined to back a kosher food campaign.
Hillel, a Jewish student group at the university, had asked the UTGSU through a member of the union’s board of directors to back the Kosher Forward campaign, which seeks to provide kosher food options on campus.
In an emailed response sent on 14 November, the UTGSU external commissioner said they wouldn’t push the motion forward because it would go against the “will of the membership” as a result of Hillel being “pro-Israel”.
The UTGSU voted in 2012 to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, an international campaign to boycott Israel over its alleged oppression of the rights of Palestinians. The union is said to be the only student union in Canada with a committee dedicated to supporting BDS.
Shortly afterwards, Hillel condemned the emailed response as “a form of anti-Semitism”; the union's executive committee then issued an apology.
They explained that the external commissioner did not give the response on their behalf and that the commissioner “mistakenly insinuated” that the motion wouldn’t garner support further on.
They added that the UTGSU executive committee invited the UoT’s Hillel representatives and the board member who made the request to have a discussion on how to “remedy harm and how to mitigate future harm towards Jewish students on campus.”
To date, the external commissioner has offered to bring the motion forward through the UTGSU’s equity and advocacy committee “as a means for having the UTGSU support the Kosher Forward campaign,” the statement read.
It concluded: “The UTGSU Executive Committee is deeply sorry for the harm that this response has caused.”