I am an alumnus of the U of M, a former UMSU Council member, and former member of the GSA executive. All I can say is that the recent motion to ban a student group for its political perspective is unprecedented, appalling, and a clear violation of core elements of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Furthermore, to do so based on the “feelings” of Council members who clearly have their own, diametrically-opposed, viewpoint on the Israel-Palestine conflict (i.e., they are not exactly non-partisan voices, but in fact self-identified “Zionists”), suggests further that the motion’s claims of “harassment” are disingenuous at best.
As someone who was also a member of the Manitoba Coalition Against Racism and Apartheid, as well as Students Against Apartheid [i.e., in South Africa] back in the 1980s, I can honestly say that this motion does a disservice to genuine anti-racist work. By falsely equating criticism of the State of Israel with criticism of Jews, and erasing a long and rich history of Jewish anti-Zionism (including the fact that many members of SAIA and similar groups across the continent are Jewish), this motion weakens, rather than strengthens, efforts to combat genuine anti-Semitism.
I can also say that if a similar motion had been raised in 1989 to ban the original Students Against Apartheid at U of M campus — ostensibly because white people’s “feelings” were being hurt, and they felt “discriminated” against by virtue of the simple fact that South Africa’s white supremacist apartheid system was being criticized — such a motion would have been laughed out of Council chambers, and seen for what it was: a pro-apartheid ruse.
This ban will not stand — not just because we have a Charter in this country that magnanimously “grants” us things such as free expression, freedom of association, and so on. But more importantly, because most people today believe those rights to be innate and self-evident, regardless of what the “Law” is said to confer. I predict that this motion will, in fact, increase the membership of SAIA, provoke a lawsuit against UMSU, and ultimately blowback against the foolish architects of this obtuse, authoritarian gambit. In the future, I would suggest the self-described Zionists who drafted this motion stick to old-fashioned exercises, such as actually *debating* their adversaries. I realize that might require inconvenient things like: facts, arguments, logic, and even moral underpinnings. But these have never been the strong suit of those on the wrong side of social justice. No wonder, then, that they — and their favoured State of Israel — have typically resorted to more blunt instruments.