The University of Toronto’s last minute decision on Friday
to cancel the Toronto Palestinian Solidarity Conference planned
by Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition at U of
T, has ruffled a few feathers to say the least.
The group had booked a room which was open to any student willing
to attend. However, the reservation — and thus the event — were
cancelled when the group refused the administration’s ultimatum.
Administration discovered a document entitled the “Basis
of Unity” which required each attendee to agree with certain
beliefs before participating and made Al-Awda’s reservation
contingent upon not using the document. When the group refused,
the rally was shut down.
The six-point document stated the undersigned supported the
Palestinian Right to Return as non-negotiable, called a two state
solution neither viable nor acceptable and declared Israel a
racist, apartheid state.
Before getting up in arms and protesting this as the denial
of free speech, Al-Awda should review this “conference” and
attempt to distinguish the function from what it appeared to
be: a rally.
Your right to free speech? Please. For once a university administration’s
decision to interfere in the lives of students was justified,
as the entire notion of academic useful debate is completely
undercut by exclusive events like this one.
University Students’ Council-sanctioned clubs at Western
are non-exclusionary, and Al-Awda claimed this event too was
open to all. However, the Basis ensured that only people who
held the same beliefs would be included to further the group’s
Furthermore, the club event is still subject to community standards
and events based on a premise like the “Basis of Unity” Al-Awda
provided can very easily incite hate speech. Excluding the more
moderate or dissenting voices, Al-Awda shot its own cause in
the foot and any pretense of furthering free speech through this
event with it.
Clubs exist on campuses to promote unity among all students
and preserve a diversity of viewpoints and this event, as U of
T’s administration correctly decided, did nothing to promote
This is not unjust censorship; in fact, free speech was upheld
and Al-Awda has no one to blame but themselves.
Congratulations should go out to a deserving Western cheerleading
team for their 19th straight national title.
What’s most impressive about the victory is that the cheerleaders
won in spite of the streak and not because of it. It would have
been easy for the team to have gone in overconfident, as they
came up against some strong competition. Yet like professionals,
the Mustang squad went in and got the job done.
Good luck in the United States guys and girls.