July 12th, 2024

Jewish teachers file antisemitism complaint against B.C. Teachers’ Federation

By The Canadian Press on July 2, 2024.

A Vancouver labour lawyer says a group of teachers has launched a human rights complaint against the BC Teachers' Federation, claiming the union "has engaged in and enabled antisemitism." The office that houses the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal is seen in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, March 28, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nono Shen

VANCOUVER – A group of British Columbia teachers has launched a human rights complaint against their union, accusing the BC Teachers’ Federation of having “engaged in and enabled antisemitism.”

Vancouver labour lawyer Paul Pulver, who represents BC Teachers Against Antisemitism, filed the complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal over what he called the “erasure of Jewish and Zionist voices and opinions” within the union and members’ workplaces.

Pulver said in an interview Tuesday that he didn’t want to share the complaint materials publicly to not run afoul of the tribunal’s process. He said the complainants “want to stay in the background.”

“They’re concerned about people retaliating against them. They’re concerned about what they’ve experienced already and the potential for that to get ratcheted up,” he said. “In the circumstances, these teachers are extremely upset. They’re fearful.”

In a written statement Tuesday, the BC Teachers Federation said it “values the critical role of the Human Rights Tribunal in upholding the BC Human Rights Code and in respect for this process, as well as any members that may be involved, will not comment before the tribunal has reviewed the matter.”

In a statement announcing the complaint, BC Teachers Against Antisemitism claims the union’s leadership caused “trauma and fear” among members who have been “intimidated and shamed” by colleagues.

The statement said the union has “ostracized” the teachers because they’re Jewish or because they hold “currently unpopular views” about Jews, Israel and Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks.

“I don’t think there are any teachers within this group who would have difficulty with legitimate criticism of Israel in respect of its political or military decisions,” Pulver said.

“Where the difficulty lies “¦ is when it goes beyond that and into antisemitic conduct, which unfortunately is what these teachers feel they’re witnessing now.”

The statement said the complaint details more than two dozen examples of antisemitism either caused or enabled by the teachers’ union.

Pulver said the issue came to a head at the federation’s March annual general meeting.

The statement said that before the meeting, the union’s president sent members anti-racism training materials that didn’t mention antisemitism but provided a link to material including a poster that said “Zionists F*ck Off.”

The group claims the meeting focused on “anti-Jewish and anti-Israel” voices and “excluded, bullied, silenced, and prevented” Jewish teachers from speaking out against “antisemitic motions” proposed at the meeting.

Pulver said the complainants want the tribunal proceedings to force the union to “apologize for the systemic discrimination to date,” and for it to cease.

He said they’re also hoping for the teachers’ federation to create policies to combat antisemitism, and “address any harms that have been suffered by way of damages if necessary.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2024.

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