On Saturday, April 27, a group of 200 students from McGill and Concordia Universities launched a campment at McGill University in Montreal. According to a student coalition organizer from Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill (SPHR) the encampment is held to put pressure on the McGill University administration to respect Palestine Solidarity Policy voted last fall by more than 5,964 students (80% of the voters) from the various McGill department and faculties including the law faculties. The ballot Question was: Do you agree to the SSMU adoption of the Palestine Solidarity Policy? The Policy is calling on the McGill administration to divest from Israeli companies and cut ties with Israeli institutions.

After the student referendum, a Quebec Superior Court judge has ordered McGill University’s student union to not adopt a contentious pro-Palestinian policy until a legal challenge on the matter can be heard in the new year. The court order was issued after a student who attends McGill, was backed by advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada. 

On the encampment ground the SPHR student organizer explains to Pressenza Montreal how the University administration has intimidated the group members and various SSMU students with repressive responses since the referendum result of last fall. 

In March a dozen McGill students staged a hunger strike at McGill University to force the administration in the disinvestment of Israeli institutions and companies. However, a striker had to break her fast after being hospitalized on her 34th day without eating.

Rania Amine began the hunger strike on February 19, alongside a dozen students. “We decided that it was time to do something more extreme because things are not moving forward,” comments the woman who made do with water, broth and electrolytes during her fast. (La Presse)

Guardian mentioned in an article in late March, that McGill University holds investments in companies including Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor that has sold fighter jets to Israel, and Safran, a French air and defense company.  According to the SSMU more than 20 millions were invested by various defense companies in McGill.

According to SPHR student organizers they will hold their encampment until the McGill administration respects the Palestine Solidarity Policy. They have support from various student associations across Montreal and Québec and various community groups. They maintain good relations with the Jewish fellows students groups and clubs of McGill and Concordia University. Also the students group doesn’t allow racist comments on the campment grounds. 

The dean and representative of the McGill University Security Service asked the students to dismantle their tents, which they refused, by email the establishment specifying that the university security service was in contact with the Police Service of the City of Montreal (SPVM

McGill, however, recalled that McGill community members are authorized to demonstrate on campus in a peaceful manner, provided that these demonstrations take place in compliance with the law and the policies and procedures established by McGill University. According to McGill, the demonstration was still taking place peacefully and was confined to the inner campus on Saturday evening.

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) operates independently from McGill University. The student association is a student-run group that dedicates its time and resources to give its members services, representation, and leadership.