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UofO Pro-Palestinian Student Group Faces Event Cancellation by Allan Rock Administration

March 7, 2012

From: University of Ottawa (Conventions and Reservations Service)
To: Students for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR)
Date: March 6, 2012

Hello [SPHR member],

Following the incident that occurred during your event in Fauteux 147A on March 5th 2012, your event scheduled for March 8th in Hagen 302 from 18:00 to 23:00 is on hold therefore in “Pending“ mode. You may not continue with this event for now. Also, I urgently need you to provide the name of the speaker(s) who spoke on the 5th of March as well as the ones that are scheduled to speak on the 8th of March 2012 in Hagen 302. This information needs to be provided to me no later than today. Also, I am forwarding your contract to Protection Services for evaluation. Again, you may not proceed with your event in Hagen 302 on the 8th of March until I confirm.

Please respond to this email promptly

Martin Bergeron
Agent de coordination, Coordination agent
Service de congrès et réservations / Conventions and Reservations Service

———————————————————————————————————————————————————

Contents of SPHR’s e-mail call-out for solidarity (March 6, 2012) and an e-mail campaign directed at President Allan Rock are below:

*URGENT CALL FOR SOLIDARITY: UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA TRIES TO SILENCE SOLIDARITY FOR PALESTINIAN HUMAN RIGHTS (SPHR) AND WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!*

***

Defend the right to critical discussion around Israeli apartheid on our campuses! Call on the University of Ottawa Administration to uphold free expression and follow clear and transparent procedures.

On March 5th, Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) 2012 opened at the University of Ottawa to a packed room, as students, faculty, and community members were treated to an informative lecture entitled “Arab Spring, Apartheid Falls? The Egyptian Uprising and Possibilities for Palestinian Resistance.” It featured an Egyptian activist who played an important role in the revolution that overthrew the Egyptian dictatorship, as well as a community activist from Montreal (for full schedule, see: http://ottawa.apartheidweek.org/).

Moreover, two students from the organizing committee were harassed by unidentified individuals, who on several occasions attempted to intimidate SPHR and Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) just outside the lecture hall during the event.

On March 6th, a member of SPHR received an email from Conventions and Reservations Services at the University of Ottawa telling her that their room booking for Thursday’s Keynote IAW event is now “on hold”, that SPHR “may not continue with this event for now”, and that SPHR’s contract was being forwarded to “Protection Service for evaluation.” These heavy-handed measures are because of an unnamed “incident” that supposedly occurred at Monday’s event. When members of SPHR met with the University administration, they were not told what this “incident” was (see below for full email from U of O). The very fact that the organizers were put in a situation, where their event was threatened with cancellation, is a form of intimidation from the University of Ottawa administration.

In 2009, the Administrations at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University banned the international-used IAW poster, gaining national and international headlines. SPHR and SAIA see today’s email as another attempt to silence the voices of students who advocate for Palestinian human rights. When the IAW poster was banned in 2009, we stood up and fought back with all of your support.

***

Let us take a stand again. We need your help in two ways:

1)

Please write a letter to the University of Ottawa Administration demanding that they do not cancel our room booking, and that they explain why the threat of room cancellation was initially issued (see sample letter below). The University hasn’t yet “confirmed” whether or not our talk will be cancelled – with your support, lets encourage them to take the principled position. While a staff member at Conventions and Reservations Services sent the email to SPHR, we know from our previous experiences that it is people higher up in the University hierarchy who must be held accountable for these attempts to silence our movements. As a result, please direct your email to:

president@uottawa.ca – Allan Rock – President, University of Ottawa, and
mbgeron@uottawa.ca – Martin Bergeron, Coordination Agent – Conventions and Reservations Services

Or call:

Allan Rock – President, University of Ottawa – Telephone: 613-562-5809
Martin Bergeron, Coordination Agent – Conventions and Reservations Services

Bureau / Office : (613) 562-5800 ext: 2825 Cellulaire / Cell : (613) 796-8099
Please include in CC:

saia.carleton@gmail.com, sphr.uofo@gmail.com

Draft Email to President Rock and Martin Bergeron

Dear President Rock and Mr. Bergeron,

I recently learned that the University of Ottawa is threatening to prevent the keynote event for Israeli Apartheid Week in Ottawa from taking place, by cancelling the students’ pre-approved room booking. Hiding these silencing tactics behind the cover of bureaucracy is worrying. Israeli Apartheid Week is a week of educational and cultural events that critically engages with the policies undertaken by the Israeli state against the Palestinian people. Over the past four years in Ottawa alone, this week has brought distinguished speakers ranging from members of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament), former leaders of the African National Congress (ANC), Jewish Holocaust Survivors, prominent indigenous leaders, and some of the most high-profile Palestinian scholars and activists from around the world. I also know that Israeli Apartheid Week has brought with it a great deal of backlash from University Administrations, including your own. When the University of Ottawa banned the Apartheid Week Poster in 2009, it shocked many people who were following the controversy, as it appeared that the University of Ottawa was taking a clear position in support of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, and against freedom of speech and student organizing.

I implore you not to make the same mistake again. Regardless of whether or not you agree that Israel is an Apartheid State, do not get in the way of student organizing and open discussion of this issue. Censoring the discussions that take place at your University through bureaucratic means reflects very poorly on the University of Ottawa and its leadership.

Consequently, I ask that you ensure that Thursday night’s IAW Keynote Speech is able to take place and that the room booking is not revoked. Also, I would like to know why SPHR was threatened with a cancelled room booking in the first place.

Sincerely,

SPHR Ottawa, SAIA Carleton.

***

2)

Join us on Thursday, March 8 for IAW 2012’s Keynote Panel Discussion, “Legalized Apartheid and Women’s Resistance in Palestine: Principled Solidarity and the Global Struggle for Liberation.” We will be meeting at the University of Ottawa campus, in Hagen Hall Room 302 (near Laurier Bus Station). This is the room that we have booked, and which the Administration has threatened to cancel. Nevertheless, we will not be silenced. Whether it takes place in Room 302 Hagen Hall, in the Lobby of Hagen Hall, or somewhere else on campus, this talk will go on.

It is only though your active support, participation, and solidarity that we will be able to fight back against this new attempt to silence IAW and stifle freedom of speech on our campuses. Please write a letter and join us on Thursday.

In solidarity,
SPHR Ottawa and SAIA Carleton

 

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