Anti-Palestinian Racism in Ontario Schools

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On July 11, 2022, the Palestinian Canadian Congress (PCC) filed a claim with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (“HRTO”) alleging that Doug Ford’s Ministry of Education and two Ontario school boards discriminated against Palestinian students and the broader Palestinian community on the grounds of race when it suppressed a student video which spoke to the everyday hardship of Palestinians living under military occupation.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more of this type of anti-Palestinian racism in the functioning of Ontario’s schools,” said Congress vice-president James Kafieh. “When you suppress a video about Palestinian life under occupation, you are sending a very clear message to Palestinian students and their parents – you are saying that they do not matter. We need an action plan to eliminate this racism once and for all,” he said.

In or around July 2020, the parent of a student who was taking the Grade 10 Civics and Citizenship online summer school course complained to the York Region District School Board (YRDSB), as well as a number of pro-Israel advocacy organizations, about the content of a student video which she felt was “spreading falsehoods to impressionable teens” regarding the Israel/Palestine issue.

The main points the Palestinian student raised in the video about Israel-Palestine were:

  • Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza live under illegal Israeli occupation.
  • The Israeli occupation is violent in nature. Palestinian resistance to the occupation is understandable.
  • Many more Palestinians than Israelis have died as a result of the violence related to the Israeli occupation.
  • Peace and equality require the end of the Israeli occupation.

On July 21, 2020, YRDSB staff sent an email to the Ministry of Education regarding the use of the video. By the end of the day, July 22, 2020, the Ministry and the YRDSB had identified and removed it, citing anti-Semitic content.

Lawyers with the newly formed Legal Centre for Palestine (“LCP”) are assisting PCC with its application to the HRTO. “We felt this application was important given the rising tide of anti-Palestinian racism in schools right across the country,” said Stephen Ellis. “The government and its friends in the Israel lobby have to understand that Palestinians will no longer tolerate this racism and that a remedy exists for the suppression of this video under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Apartheid Israel should not be directing the Ontario curriculum.”

The filed application names the Palestinian Canadian Congress, the Ministry of Education, the Simcoe District School Board and the Ottawa-Carlton District School Board as parties.