School board’s decision sets a dangerous precedent, say Canadian Jewish groups.
By World Israel News Staff
It may sound like a Kafkaesque nightmare, but the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) decision to censure a whistleblower for pointing out antisemitic material distributed by an equity advisor is very much real.
After an investigation, the TDSB found that trustee Alexandra Lulka’s concerns about antisemitism contained within texts given to teachers as recommended reading during the May 2021 Gaza-Israel conflict were, in fact, valid.
But despite the TDSB’s own finding that the material was indeed antisemitic and promoted terrorism, Lulka will receive a censure for raising the alarm over the texts.
The reason? Lulka’s social media posts about the texts “fell within the TDSB definition of being discriminatory” and breached their code of conduct, according to a report by Integrity Commissioner Suzanne Craig.
Craig issued the recommendation for Lulka to be censured last week, which, according to the TDSB, “is the harshest penalty that can be meted out to a trustee.”
Although Lulka never used the terms “Muslims” or “Palestinians” in her posts, her online critique of the antisemitic materials referred to “suicide bombings and other forms of terrorisms.”
TDSB found that Lulka’s reference was inherently Islamophobic and said she should be censured for using language to describe those particular acts on social media, although they found that the material did promote both suicide bombing and terror.
Lulka herself is Jewish and represents a district with a large number of Jewish constituents.
The decision has sparked major backlash from the Canadian Jewish community, which pointed out the dangerous precedent set by punishing Jews for calling out antisemitism.
“This latest TDSB report is a brazen attack on the rights of every Canadian Jew,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, in a statement.
“Jewish trustees elected in large part by Jewish constituents have a fundamental right to condemn materials of the sort described by the Commissioner. Moreover, the report is deeply legally flawed, and raises a reasonable apprehension of bias.
“If Trustee Lulka is censured for simply doing her job, then the message sent by the TDSB is that Jewish perspectives are not welcome and Jewish safety is irrelevant.”
In an open letter to the TDSB, the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation slammed the “lack of objectivity and fairness in the report” and its “fallacious” conclusion.
“It is not Ms. Lulka that acted in contravention of any Code of Conduct,” the group wrote. “We urge you to look more deeply into the situation that is at the root of the problem and exonerate Ms. Lulka of any fault.”
“It is astonishingly unreasonable to compel a Jewish trustee calling out Jew-hatred to also highlight positive elements in the resources. The recommendation to censure her for not doing so is misguided and must be rejected,” said Noah Shack, vice president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, in a statement.
“Punishing trustee Lulka is contrary to the values of an educational institution purporting to engender learning and mutual respect.”
He added that “a censure will have a chilling effect on Jewish students, staff and educators who are already feeling intimidated to share their lived experience of antisemitism within the TDSB and speak out against Jew-hatred when they see it.”