The Gazette’s Irwin Block attended Hillel’s press conference yesterday, and reported the following in today’s paper:
Lawyer Michael Bergman said yesterday he plans to file a civil action against the Concordia Student Union in Quebec Superior Court by next week seeking annulment of the suspension of Hillel’s rights and privileges.
The university will be named as a co-party to the action, and be asked to “take control of its own space and property” and enable Concordia Hillel to carry on its religious and secular programs.
If necessary, Concordia would be asked to place the CSU under trusteeship, Bergman warned.
Hillel would also seek “significant” punitive damages for infringing on “the freedoms, liberties and constitutional rights of Concordia’s Jewish students and their association, Concordia Hillel,” the group’s co-presidents said in a statement.
As many of you know, the CSU will be meeting tonight to attempt to pass motions forcing Hillel – and other groups – to sign agreements before their club can be reinstated. On this point, Hillel’s lawyer said the following:
The student government has since backtracked, saying Hillel can be reinstated if it signs a commitment not to distribute material that promotes war.
A motion is to be presented at a council meeting tonight calling for Hillel’s immediate reinstatement, while another restates that all campus clubs sign the commitment.
Bergman, acting as Hillel’s counsel, said the group will continue to refuse because “signing it would mean we are against the war on terrorism, a war against Iraq, a war in self-defence, a war to protect Canadian soil.”
Essentially what it comes down to is the CSU’s refusal to accept that others may not share their views, but still have the right to freedom of speech. The CSU’s politicians are anti-war. Hillel – from my view, normally a peace-loving organization – is being asked to sign an agreement to share that view, or else it will not be allowed to operate on campus.
Hillel’s views on peace or war are irrelevant. What is relevant here is the principle of the thing. The CSU cannot dictate to any of its member clubs what to believe or what political views to hold. If Hillel wants to be a pro-Israel club, the CSU can’t ban it from operating because the CSU is pro-Palestinian. If some other student group wants to endorse free trade, the CSU cannot ban it because the CSU is anti-free trade. And if tomorrow, a group of students wanted to form a pro-war group, then the CSU really has no right whatsoever to disallow it on the grounds that they are “demilitarized”.
Freedom of speech applies to everyone – agree or disagree. And that is the real issue at stake here. The CSU is going to try to pass more motions against Hillel tonight. See below for the appeal to the community to show up and protest.